In the most recent installment of “From My Bookshelf” I want to talk about one of my favorite months for books. The amazing Megan Tennant (click on her name to check out her Twitter feed) hosts an event that is called “Indiecember”. It’s different from every other reading challenge or readathon out there in that the goal is to REVIEW books, not just read them. Specifically we are challenged to review books by independent or self-published authors.

I first came across Megan’s name when my daughter recommended her book “Aletheia” to me. An indie author herself, Megan understands the importance of book reviews in helping to promote the work of authors that don’t have a big name publisher doing the publicity.

So get ready – I’ll be using this space to hype up the indie books I’m reading and reviewing this month. I just love finding new gems each December!

Unexpected Adventures

Like so many people, I found myself needing a creative outlet or two when Covid-19 moved all schools to virtual learning in March. So on May 1st I made my first TikTok video ever. The app was entertaining and even sometimes educational. In the middle of May I participated in something called a Blackout. The goal was to promote the content created by black individuals on the platform (TikTok would admit to one news agency that the algorithim tended to “shadowban” content by black creators.) As a result of that particular event, I ended up following several black individuals on TikTok.

When those same content creators began expressing their frustration about a campaign rally scheduled in Tulsa – once the home of Black Wall Street – on Juneteenth, I did some research. I knew about Juneteenth; I had NO CLUE about Black Wall Street. It didn’t take long before I understood why they were frustrated. So late on the night of June 11, I posted a video rant of my own. Keep in mind, TikTok videos are no longer than 60 seconds which isn’t much time! I had 1,002 followers at that time which is not a very large platform on that particular app. In the video I suggested a strategy that several friends of mine have used for years – reserve tickets for the rally and don’t go. I know how rallies work. I know that they will keep seating people as long as there are seats and I know that, for a presidential campaign rally, there is usually overflow. And after all, I only had 1,002 followers and my “biggest” video had been seen almost 200 times. How much impact could this Midwest Gen X grandma have with so few people seeing her videos?

The next morning I woke up to HUNDREDS of notifications on TikTok. My video rant from the previous night had been seen and shared a few thousand times. The number of people following me had tripled and the craziness was just getting started. 24 hours after I posted my video, there were 300,000 tickets reserved. At the end of that weekend, there would be over a million ticket requests.

A contributor from the website Dailydot.com reached out to me, interested in doing a story for their website after seeing the TikTok video. The thing that amused her the most? The fact that a GenX Grandmother was going viral on an app aimed at GenZ and Millenials. Donnie O’Sullivan, a reporter with CNN.com, saw THAT article and reached out to do an interview as well. He went so far as to reach out to Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager at the time, and discuss the TikTok video challenge with him. Understandably, Parscale blew it off. And then the rally happened and the stadium was about 2/3 empty.

The rest, as they say, is history. More interviews than I count with news agencies all over the world, a social media platform that has continued to grow (and has me feeling a rather serious sense of responsibility!), death threats, people sending me encouraging messages, people sending me messages in which they wish me severe bodily harm . . . it’s been one wild ride. Then again, this is 2020 so . . . anything could happen!

Let this be a lesson to everyone about social media – you have NO WAY of knowing what might go viral at any given time. Be prepared to back up what you put out there or don’t post it!

What I Miss Most – Theatrically Speaking

It’s no secret that 2020 has been . . . weird. Challenging even. And the biggest challenge has been the extreme changes that COVID-19 brought into our lives. I’m so used to wearing my mask at work, sometimes I get all the way home and into my house before I remember to take it off. No dinners out with groups of friends, no gathering in large groups for . . . anything, really.

And no live theater. That one hurts.

March 13, 2020 was the very last day of school for us. We didn’t know it would be the last day. At first, Iowa schools were going to be closed for a couple of weeks. And then it was a couple more weeks. Eventually it became clear that we were going to end the school year doing things virtually. And that meant no Spring musical at FDSH. Not gonna lie – I shed some tears over that.

It’s not just my chances to direct or perform that I miss. I miss going to shows. I miss getting lost in a story for a couple of hours. I miss the chance to sit in a room with others – some I don’t even know – and share our responses to what is happening on the stage. The shared laughter, surprise, shock, and maybe even tears is an extremely unique experience because the performers get to share in all of it as well. And trust me when I say that a responsive audience adds an energy that performers almost crave.

I miss watching young performers at the beginning of their theatrical experience. I miss seeing the growth in young people I’ve had the privilege of working with repeatedly. I miss seeing family members share the stage in local community theater productions. And of course I miss seeing professional shows on the stage in Des Moines!

I miss the friendships, the inside jokes, the costume fittings, the frantic costume changes, the unexpected
moments that are always a part of a live production . . . It’s not an exaggeration to say that live theater is what I have missed the most during all of this.

#TikTokGrandma Works the Election

If you are reading this on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, then I am working the polls as you read! I’ve always believed in the importance of voting (even local elections – already voted in a school board election earlier this year!) but this is the first I’ve decided to work the polls!

I’m excited. And nervous. And not thrilled about how early I have to get up on Tuesday – I have to be there at 6 a.m. and I am NOT a morning person! It’s gonna be long day – we were told to plan on working till an hour AFTER the polls close – but as far as picking an exciting election to work for my first ever experience . . . wow!

It’s Sunday evening as I’m typing this and, like most of the nation, I have hopes about the outcome of Tuesday. I’m very aware that we may not have a final answer for a couple of weeks depending on how close the race is and taking into account states with regulations that allow for absentee ballots that are postmarked by election day. It’s obvious to anyone watching that emotions are running very, VERY high for many people.

But I’m going to choose to see the positives and they are there believe me.

Nearly every state in the nation is setting records for early in-person voting numbers. Voters between the ages of 18 – 29 are showing up in large numbers to make their voices heard. People often bemoan the fact that just over half of those eligible to vote choose to do so even in a presidential election year. That’s not going to be the case this year.

There are significant number of people who have told me that they have never voted before but they have already voted early this year. Some are still in their 30’s but one woman was in her early 60’s and is casting her first vote ever in a presidential election. That’s huge!

I encourage everyone to simply breathe. If you are a person of faith your job is simple – love EVERYONE. Yes, everyone. There is no escape clause in that commandment. You are to love your neighbor and everyone is your neighbor.

From My Bookshelf – A Storm of Glass and Stars

(This is book 4 in the series “The Oncoming Storm by Marion Blackwood)

I was already a huge fan of this series before reading book four. But I have to admit – this one surprised me! In the first three books, Blackwood did a beautiful job creating characters that I came to love but who I still didn’t know much about. We got a BIG surprise about Shade – the leader of the Assassin’s Guild – earlier in the series and book 3 revealed some things about Storm that left readers with MANY questions. And in this book, we get all sorts of new information about our favorite leading lady although we still have questions to answer when the story is over – and I’m thinking there is a book 5 coming at some point?!

When I TRULY fall in love with a series I develop this love/hate relationship with the last book because I don’t want to say goodbye to the story and the characters for good. I’m DREADING the final installment in Storm’s story. But it looks like I don’t have to say goodby quite yet!