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An ode to 1977 (or: Why in the world do I love Star Wars?)

22 Dec


Not many of my childhood memories are vivid.

But that one from the summer of 1977 most definitely is.

My mother, father and three-year-old brother sat in an Austin, Texas theatre with a crowd of moviegoers eagerly anticipating something. We’d heard about the something, but still weren’t quite sure what to expect.

When the crawl of that first “Star Wars” rolled up the screen (in my mind, still the biggest screen I’ve ever experienced), I looked over to my little brother’s face. My mother sat between us, and he sat on my Dad’s lap.

His eyes were huge.

He stared at the words, and then the spaceship, and then the explosions, and then the creatures. And his young eyes simply tried to take it all in.

Ever since, I’ve tried to do the same thing.

I’ve taken it all in as a loving fan girl; I’ve tried to understand why the phenomenon called “Star Wars” has even appealed to me for so long. After all, it’s only a movie.

And I’ve come to a two-pronged conclusion about that:

  1. I go big.
  2. I love my Dad.

Let me explain.

I recently had a discussion with a friend who had never seen any of the Star Wars movies and who wasn’t necessarily anticipating the release of the new “The Force Awakens” installment.

I’m not a Star Wars snob, so it doesn’t bother me that others don’t care for it. But the conversation did make me wonder what it was that made me love it so much—and why it didn’t have the same appeal for my friend.

“Maybe it says something about me, and how I obsess over imaginary things,” I told him.

Hmm. Imaginary things?

I love created worlds—whether they’re in a book, or a t.v. show, or a movie.

I love when a director, or an author, or a sculptor, or a songwriter, creates a world I could never have imagined for myself and then makes it so real that I want to live in that place.

I will become fascinated with those worlds; I will fall in love (or hate) with its inhabitants and stand in awe of the creators who made it for me.

I will immerse myself in those worlds.

In a pretty big way.

Because, if I love something, I want to celebrate it big.

(That applies to real-life, non-imaginary things as well. Just ask my kids about their birthday celebrations. Or how we do vacations.)

So, in the case of Star Wars (or Harry Potter, or Emily Dickinson, or a superhero), I will watch and rewatch, read and reread, discuss and discuss some more. And I might even wear my hair in a Leia-inspired bun, or wear a shirt emblazoned with words from my girl Emily D.

Because I go big, and happy, and unapologetic.

(Some people think it’s a little crazy. I will leave that for any future couch-pondering I may or may not need in my old age.)

And then there’s the second reason.

My Dad.

That first Star Wars viewing in 1977 started a tradition with my father that’s still one of the most important from my childhood.

From that point on, we went to see any new science fiction movie that made it to our double-plex movie theatre. We stood in a line that stretched around the building to see “The Empire Strikes Back,” but we also watched movies with such inauspicious titles as “Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone” and “Outland” (and others involving questionable 3D and even more questionable men in spandex spacesuits).

It was our thing.

We shared other things—a love for music, a common faith—but this was different. It was fun, and it was ours. (My Mom didn’t understand; she and I were close in other ways that involved the kitchen, and books, and the shopping mall. Those things were just as special, just in a different way.)

I had a special bond, a new sense of community with my Dad.

Ultimately, that community may be the real reason why Star Wars resonates with me, and why its newest iteration means so much to me and its countless other fans.

My Dad and I shared something.

My brother and I shared something (when that three-year-old grew older, he occasionally let me hang in his room with his hordes of action figures).

The other fans and I shared something.

My daughters and I now share something.

And, apparently, this sense of community is important to me–maybe even more important than I realized.

It must be why I look forward to hours upon hours in a stadium, cheering on my favorite football team.

Or why I enjoy concerts so much, as I sing and sway in unison with other aficionados.

Or why church is something I have to do every week—and if I miss it, I feel disconnected.

So, maybe I have my answers.

Star Wars isn’t entirely about “I am your father” or “May the Force be with you”…or Han Solo or the new (awesome!) heroine Rey.

For me, at least, it’s also about:


and being a little crazy,

and community.

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10 things that keep you from writing

12 Nov

In no particular order…

  1. Fear that you’re not good enough
  2. Too many new ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ trailers
  3. A perceived lack of time
  4. Comparing yourself to others
  5. Facebook
  6. ‘Real’ work during the day
  7. Waiting for the perfect idea to come along
  8. J.K. Rowling is more awesomer than you’ll ever be
  9. I need coffee. I need wine. I need all kinds of other things.
  10. You’re not a morning (or night) (or in-between) person

And a few to get you writing…

  1. Facebook and Star Wars will still be there
  2. J.K. Rowling started somewhere
  3. You can make time
  4. You are you
  5. Your idea is valuable. And it needs to come alive.

A baby’s coming…can we name her Hermione? or Flannery? or Scout?

7 Oct


My daughter just announced that she’s having a baby.

Which means I shall be a grandmother.

Which means this new girl needs to have a name that shows just how much her family loves reading and writing and authors and books.

For my daughter, then, I suggest some of these literary-inspired names:

Hermione, or Luna, or Lilly, or Ginny (because Harry Potter is the best)

Elizabeth, or Darcy, or Austen, or Bronte (because British female novelists rock)

Flannery, or Harper, or Scout, or Chopin (because we’re from the South)

Daisy, or Zelda, or Jordan, or Vienna (because…Fitzgerald)

Anne, or Charlotte, or Alice, or Matilda (because she’s going to read a lot of kids books)

Juliet, Portia, or Rosalind, or Cressida (because the Bard was pretty creative)

The options are truly endless (Hazel! Sawyer! Katniss! Jo!), which means it may be a good thing it’s not ultimately my decision.

(Which other literary names do you like? Are books seriously the best place to get baby name inspiration?)


The Joy of Typewriters

22 May

You may have noticed that sweet little pink number in the right-side column of this site. And look at those luscious Corona keys up above.

I love computers.

I love my nifty laptop.

I love the ease and the technology and all the gizmos.

But, I adore typewriters.

I’m proud to be part of a generation that still remembers having to take a required Typewriting class in junior high. (8th grade, Ramay Junior High, Fayetteville, Arkansas.)

I’m proud to be the very last Reporting class at the University of Alabama to use a typewriter (albeit electronic). The next semester, we moved on to the first generation of Macs.

Typewriters, then, hold a special place in my heart…and I’m on a quest to find a few for my own personal collection.

(If you find one for me, I’ll take it in pink please.)

24 Feb

There is a popular meme going around the Internet right now (especially predominant on Facebook), and I really enjoyed this writing-related version of it.

It brings some thoughts and questions to mind…

What do other, non-writing friends think we do all day?

What do we want to accomplish as writers?

What is the writing “reality” like?

It’s Game Day at “Writing with Cheryl”

9 Jan

(Let me be honest with you on this Monday morning. I will find very little time to brainstorm, market, query editors, or do anything else remotely writing-related today. It is, after all, the Big Day. The day of the Big Game. The day when I pray the crimson stars will align and my Bama football team will bring home another national championship. I will be otherwise occupied today, with ESPN-watching, snack-making, hand-wringing, and high-fiving.

I will share with you, though, an excerpt of an article I wrote a few years ago for an Alabama sports magazine. It was entitled “Momma’s Rules for Watching Football at Home” and it provided readers with all sorts of handy tips and advice. Perhaps it can help you as you get ready to watch the Bama-LSU championship game later tonight. And if you’re not watching the game, take a break from writing and yell “Roll Tide!” for me anyway.)
1. Once the game begins, all conversation will be focused solely on the game. If you choose to talk about anything else, you will be sent to another room.

2. During commercials, you have a quick respite to go to the bathroom, replenish your snack plate, or talk about games other than the current game being watched. Once the game is back on, however, you must be in your seat and attentive once again.

3. There will be no blocking the view of the television simply because you need to show me how well you do ballet.

4. If you decide to talk about boys, you must go to another room (this applies specifically to the preteen and teenage girls in my home).

5. You will attend the game properly attired. Ideally, you need to wear an Alabama shirt. If you do not have one, you can wear a generic red shirt. If you do not have one of these shirts, one will be provided for you.

6. You will bring appropriate game-day snacks. Chips and rotel dip, buffalo wings, pizza, rice krispy treats, chocolate cake are all fine with me. (Who am I kidding? Any food–storebought, gourmet–is good football food! Bring it on.)

7. You have permission to scream mercilessly at the referees. You also have permission to laugh and mock the other team and coaches. You have permission to wring your hands over Alabama’s performance, but you will never yell “They suck.” My home is a hate-free environment and we will support our team no matter what (This applies primarily to my husband Gary, who gets completely disgusted the moment we commit our first fumble.)

8. You will listen to my incessent comments and commentary about the team’s playing during the game. I know everyone on the roster, have studied their stats, and know a bunch about the other team as well. You will bow to my intelligence (and keep your mouth shut if you don’t).

9. You will yell “Rolllllll Tiiiiiiiiiide” on every kickoff, and at other random moments throughout the game.

10. You will not (never, ever) ask such questions as, “What does holding mean?” or “Why did they get two points for that tackle in the end zone?” or “What’s a cornerback?” while the game is taking place. During a game is not the appropriate time to learn about football. (If, however, you have a sincere desire to understand the fine points of the game, I will be happy to answer reasonable questions during commercials.)

11. If you are a teenage daughter and would love to have a curfew extended, keys to the car, or some extra cash in your pocket, cheering alongside me with unabashed enthusiasm is a great start!

12. If you are a preteen, talking about how “hot” our team’s quarterback is (although he is quite the cutie) does not qualify as “educated football discussion.”

13. If you are a four-year-old, do not ask “When is this game going to be over?” repeatedly.

14. You are permitted to perform “happy dances” after touchdowns have been scored. I appreciate exuberance!

15. You will understand why I close my eyes and cover my face if we are behind with under two minutes to go; you will understand why I actually leave the room if we are trying to score to win within the last thirty seconds. If you don’t understand, you will pretend as if you do.

I won’t get into “Momma’s Rules for the Day after College Football Games” (such as: “You will let me read every article in the sports section of the newspaper out loud to you,” “You will give the television over to me for two hours, so I can rewatch my dvr-ed version of the game from the day before,” “You will not laugh when I wear an Alabama-themed dress to church,” and “You will not talk to me about football if we actually lost the game”)…perhaps that’s an article for another day.

(This article originally appeared in Alabama Gameday.)