The Hobbit {my favorite book}

You’d be surprised how many times I get asked what my favorite book is. It’s on blog tour signups, it’s quizzes in my online groups, it’s just random questions. I usually have a hard time picking a favorite, but not with books. There’s always one I can give as an answer: 
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 

The first time I walked into a hole in the ground, I was five. Maybe six. My dad read it aloud to me and my four brothers, and I was hooked for life. 
See, I was a fearful little girl. I wanted to be brave and important and save the world, but I got scared by the shadows in my closet and bright lights and by people talking too loudly around me. 
I learned about being wild from the boys I grew up with. They challenged me to jump off cliffs (literally), to climb trees (I am terrible at it), to run all out and not be scared of tripping and falling (I still have scars on my knees). They encouraged me to take a couple steps and throw myself out, trusting to the water to catch me and cradle me. 
But there were some things they couldn’t do. 
They couldn’t teach me not to be afraid of the darkness. 
They couldn’t teach me about the dragons I would have to face. 
We were only little kids, after all. They didn’t know about those things either.

Later – much later – I learned far too much more about fear. I learned about the monsters that lurked, not under my bed or in my closet, but inside my mind. I learned about grief. I learned about being ripped apart. I learned about being wrong. I learned about being hurt. I learned about death.

I learned all that and more, and I almost lost myself in the middle of it.

By that point, The Hobbit movies were being filmed and everyone in my family was buzzing with excitement. I got out my book from the bottom of the stack on my bedside table – even during the time when I didn’t read it every six months, it never quite made it to the shelves – and I read it again.

I found myself inside the pages. I was Thorin. brave and loyal and proud. Too proud. I was Smaug, my own monster. I was Smeagol, clutching to things I couldn’t keep. Most importantly, I was Bilbo, small and afraid and unimportant.

But I learned something, and the movies helped me see it clearer.

I learned that even the small, seemingly unimportant ones are needed. I learned that sometimes what the world needs is a little more home. Sometimes it needs another pocket handkerchief.

The beauty of The Hobbit is that Bilbo doesn’t try to be Thorin or Gandalf or Beorn. Bilbo is simply himself, and that is enough. He becomes, over the course of the story, a better version of himself… but he is still himself. He is a hobbit. He likes his books and his armchair and clean handkerchiefs. Tea is at four.

Image: Pinterest

I learned more about being from reading or listening to The Hobbit approximately 200 times in the last fifteen years than I ever learned in church or listening to sermons or preachers. I learned more about life, my own and life in general, from this little book than I have from almost anywhere else. I sometimes think this book saved my life. I don’t really know, but I do know that it has shaped me in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible.

I love C. S. Lewis’s quote on stories for children because it sums up my relationship with The Hobbit so well:

Image: Pinterest

So if you ask me what my favorite book is, I might tell you the title of one I just finished… I might protest at having to pick favorites and how difficult the entire concept is… I might rattle off a list that’s three miles long… or I might tell you The Hobbit.

-Annie

Hey friend! I’m so glad you stopped in. Leave a comment below, I’d love to know what book has influenced you the most! If you’d like, you can follow my blog by email, or sign up for my newsletter, or both! I’d love to have you. 



Copyright 2018 by Annie Louise Twitchell

I’m Not Always Brave

So remember how I did that giveaway for my birthday, where I had both my Kindle e-books available for free on the 13th? I ended up giving away 253 e-book copies of my books, mostly Spinner of Secrets, but a few The Christmas Ladder as well.

That almost didn’t happen.

Tuesday, June 13th.

I was going with my dad to one of the elementary schools in his district. I was going to speak to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classrooms, about writing. My alarm was set to go off at 5:45 AM so I would have plenty of time to get ready, and also plenty of time to get on my computer and check to make sure my blog post I had scheduled with all the information about the giveaway had posted, and share it to my social media platforms.

I woke up at 4:30 AM in traditional Annie fashion when she’s nervous, and after a few minutes, decided I could go back to sleep. I turned on my Pandora station (I sometimes have a hard time going to sleep, and music helps) and went back to sleep. Dad heard music playing in my room when he was up at 6:00, so assumed I was up. At 6:40 am I was woken by Dad knocking on my door and asking if I was ready to go.

I jumped out of bed, jumped into my clothes, grabbed my tote bag, my crate of materials, wiggled my shoes on, bolted downstairs, mixed up my iced Chai tea I had started the night before, and dashed out the door, yelling to Mom that I messed up and was super late and AHHHHHH.

The books were still available for free, I just had no way for anyone to know that unless that happened to be the day they happened to look it up. My phone doesn’t have the Facebook app, that’s on my tablet, with no mobile data connection. But I managed to get Chrome open, find Amazon, SCREENSHOT the Amazon page showing my book was free, grab the link, and use Chrome to make a Facebook post saying it was my birthday and my books were for free and so on and so forth. Shared it to my groups and pages and so on, and started to get responses coming in.

Once we got to school and I had some down time before the classes, I was able to get on a laptop and onto my blog, publish the post, and share it on my Twitter and Pinterest.

I talked to the three classrooms, which I was crazy nervous about right when I started, but I did settle down about ten minutes into the first one. I did 4th grade first, then 3rd, then 5th – 4th sang Happy Birthday to me and I got a photo with the whole class. 3rd was a little harder, they weren’t as sure what to do with me and how to interact with me, and I was expecting more response from them, so I didn’t do as much talking as I could have. 5th was an absolute dream. They were interested, they were engaged – I got a question from EVERY SINGLE KID in the class, including the one I was pretty sure wouldn’t say anything. They were all super excited about Spinner of Secrets, but because I wrote it for upper grades, I told them to talk to their parents. I ended up giving out business cards to everyone in the class, because they were so interested in reading it. It was super convenient that it was free, because then the parents would be more likely to pick it up for them. Some of them told me about the stories they are writing, we talked about that – they all got wide eyed when I told them I have written over a million words in the past ten years – they thought five brothers was A LOT…

Since I had a different school the following day, but the same ages of kids, I decided to set my books for free on the following day as well. I had over 50 copies distributed when I got on the computer around one to set that up.

Wednesday was similar, except that I didn’t oversleep, and I took more business cards in with me. I did 5th, then 3rd, then 4th this time, and one of the things I talked to the 5th graders about was being scared.

I told them that I was nervous, even talking to them. I told them about the first time I did a public reading, and how I felt like jelly the whole time. I told them how I walked up to the front of the classroom and had to take a minute to collect myself before I could start talking to them. And I watched as those kids all lit up. I had six of them tell me that they have stage fright too, and they get nervous when they’re in front of people. I told them how I scared myself when I finally published my room, because I hadn’t thought I could do it, and then I did. I told them that I’m still learning how to do things like this.

And they got it. They understood. Somewhere, and maybe not all of them got it, but they understood that you still learn things even when you’re an adult. They got it that sometimes adults get nervous or scared. And they were encouraged by that, that made them feel a little braver. They asked more questions, and I watched some of them start to dream. I could see them wandering as I was talking, starting to dream, starting to wonder, starting to think – maybe I really can do something big, even if I’m small and scared. Maybe messing up isn’t the end of the world. I don’t know how many times I crossed words when I was speaking to them – how many times I had “verbal autocorrect” kick in. I had things I had to go back and rephrase. I had to ask a couple different times if what I had said made sense (it did.) And I watched these kids. I watched them watch me. And I watched as what I had wanted, what I had been hoping for, happened. It connected.

And then on Thursday I had a reading and signing at the library in Carrabassett Valley. I was pretty tired out by then. I desperately wanted to cry but I couldn’t even make myself. I made it through the session and apparently it wasn’t evident that I was exhausted and had a headache, so that was good.

See, I had at least half a dozen meltdowns before this week. I was so scared about the two readings I had, the six classrooms I was speaking to… I was going to be interacting with a ton of people, and I was doing it professionally. I was going to stand there and call myself a writer and an author, over and over again. I was scared that I would mess up, scared that I was just being stupid to even try, scared that I would start crying in the middle of a reading. I was so scared. I had help though; my girls online helped, Missie helped, Hannah helped, my parents helped.

And then at the first reading, when I was answering questions, I was asked one that I hadn’t thought of. One I hadn’t even considered. Hadn’t prepped for.

“How do you keep your joy?”

For a moment, my mind was a complete blank. I had no words. No answers. Nothing. I had nothing.

“How are you always so happy, and you don’t get frustrated with your work, and you’re always so excited?”

I managed to give an answer, one that was good – I give myself a lot of time and breathing space, and if I start to run into it being hard, I stop and go work on something else, and come back to it later when it’s easier. And that is true.

How do I keep my joy?

I keep my joy because I learned that messing up is okay and that saying things backwards like “I’m wearing shirts and sleeveless shorts” is okay and that sometimes stuff happens like a blog post doesn’t get scheduled and you sleep through your alarm. I keep my joy because I know that life throws curve balls, and I don’t make that where my worth is, when my light is. I am light for so many reasons – I am joyful because I have been bought, saved, and I am loved by Someone bigger than the universe that dances in the sky overhead. I am joyful because grace is not a fragile thing. I am joyful because messing up is okay.

I am light because I learned to let myself be dark.

I am brave because I let myself be afraid.

I am strong because I let myself be weak.

I am joyful because I let myself be angry.

I am hopeful because I have been hopeless.

I have been, and am, and will be again, angry and bitter and sharp and scared and terrified and heartbroken and desperate.

And I know this.

I choose to let myself be what I need to be in order to best express who I am.

I keep my joy because that is part of me, I am daisies and sunshine and that soft golden rain you get when it’s raining at sunset. And I’m bright and small and easily frightened by loud noises, and I get nervous when I talk to people because I’m afraid that I’ll mess up or say the wrong thing. I’m scared I’m not good enough. I’m scared that I won’t be enough.

And I’m learning to be me.

Learning that me is enough.

Of course I’ll get better, and more confident, and so on and so forth – but for the moment I am here. And it’s okay to be here. Here is not where I am staying, but here is where I am.

This Writing Addiction




I’m addicted to stories and words.


I can’t help it. It’s a part of me and it always has been. I have made stories since I could talk. So much of my life has been centered around stories, either mine or someone else’s. I inhale air and exhale words. 

Even if no one reads them, I will still be making stories. Even if I never write them down, even if I never tell a word, even if they exist only and solely in my mind, I will still be making stories. It’s in my blood. It is my blood. From a non-scientific view, my DNA is a double helix of sentences and paragraphs.




I will teach them to have hope and I will teach them the meaning of pain and I will show them the stars as if they could shake hands with them. I will teach them to believe in themselves and to know that they are beautiful. I will teach them to dream and to believe in impossible things. I will teach them to be passionate for what they believe in and I will teach them to find peace in an ending that is not what they have hoped for.


And at the same time I will teach myself that.


Copyright 2017 by Annie Louise Twitchell

Monarch

I like bugs.

And lots of other things, like arachnids and snakes and frogs and turtles and mice and voles and moles and birds and squirrels. (Shrews are horrible, mean little things, and chipmunks have fallen somewhat out of favor after I was removing one from the house and it sank its teeth into my thumb and wouldn’t let go.)

In a family of five boys and me, I was the one with the most interest in creepy crawlies. I threatened my oldest brother on more than one occasion, that I’d put a snake in his bed. I never did because I didn’t want the poor snake to get hurt.

When I was young and adorable (as opposed to being older and adorable), I had a bug box.

It was a clear plastic box about ten inches long and eight inches wide and eight inches tall, with a brown plastic lid that looked like a colander, with a little door in it for putting food and things through.

One summer I used it for snakes. Due to my brothers snake phobias, I had to keep it in the back corner of the yard, behind the biggest birch tree. That year, I was apparently attracting snakes, because every few days to couple weeks I’d have a new one to put in my box and let the old one go. I gave them leaves and bugs (grasshoppers mostly – I refused to feed crickets to anything because I liked their singing), and water in a milk jug lid. I had names for each of them – the pair I had for the longest was named Jack and Jill, because I found them at the bottom of our hill. One of them even shed its skin. I went out one morning intending to release it, and it was all white and not moving. I’d never had any of them die on me so I was a little freaked out, but I went inside and got Mom, and she came out and looked at it, and then it started wiggling and split its skin and slithered out. I have the skin in my nature collection up in the attic still.

I used my bug box for raising Monarch butterflies two years in a row. I’d go out and check the milkweed in the scrub at the back of the yard, and if I found a caterpillar, I would ‘vewy vewy cawefully’ pick the leave it was on, and take it to my bug box. I’d feed them milkweed leaves, and I’d clean out the box every couple of days and restock it with fresh milkweed leaves and flowers, and I’d watch them get bigger and bigger and bigger until one morning they’d be up on the underside of the lid, hanging upside and spinning themselves into a chrysalis. (I was very proud of myself for learning that word.)

And then they’d just sit there for a few days. That was okay, though, because I loved the colors of the chrysalis. Sort of a minty blue green, with lots of little gold dots. It was so cool that there was gold dots on something that was so temporary like that.

And then the chrysalis would start to get clear, and you could see a lot of black and orange, and then it would open and a very wet, miserable looking, bedraggled little butterfly would come out, its body all out of proportion and weird looking.

On of them, I actually got to watch hatch out and open up. I went out to check on it and it was just opening the chrysalis, so I went running inside and got Mom to come watch. I think we skipped lunch that day – told the boys to make it themselves or have peanut butter and jelly. We watched it for hours as its wings dried out, and it began moving around a bit. We put some flowers in the bug box and it liked those a lot. Butterflies have such weird tongues! We were very careful not to touch the butterflies – their wings are covered in very tiny scales and if you touch them, the scales come off, and that’s not good. It’s hard for them to fly.

If you look closely, you can see three chrysalises in the top right hand corner of the bug box. 

Do you have any idea how hard it can be to capture a butterfly on camera? Especially when you’re nine and can’t hold still from excitement?

Here’s hoping I brightened your November morning. 😊
Copyright 2016 by Annie Louise Twitchell
Photo credits to Twitchells Various

Liebster Award

A huge thanks to my friend Erudessa for nominating me! 





Here are the rules:
– Thank the blog who nominated you and link back to them.
– Nominate up to 11 other bloggers to receive the award.  To be eligible, they need to have 200 followers or less.
– Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
– Tell your readers 11 random facts about yourself.

– Give your nominees 11 questions to answer on their blog when they post their nomination.


My Nominees:

My Eleven Questions from Erudessa:


#1 – If you would live anywhere in the world, where?
Either Maine or Scotland, I think. 

#2 – What did dream occupation did you have as a child?
More like, which one didn’t I have? I have always loved writing and that was always my fall-back dream.

#3 – If you could only wear one color for the rest of your life, which color?
Pink, as long as I can vary the shades. If I can’t then I’d have to say royal blue.

#4 – Favorite new book?
You would ask. Argh, I hate picking favourites! My mind goes blank and I cannot remember any of the three dozen new-to-me books I’ve read in the past four weeks. For lack of any other options, ‘How To Eat Fried Worms’ by Thomas Rockwell, simply because ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ are not actually new to me even if the charming audio edition I’m currently listening to is. 
#5 – Do you prefer to watch foreign entertainment with subtitles, dubs, or you don’t like to watch foreign entertainment?
I watch BBC, which is, of course, in English. I haven’t watched any foreign entertainment in a different language.

#6 – Favorite fairytale?
Again with the favourite questions! It’s like asking, ‘what’s your favourite food?’ Suddenly I can’t remember what I just ate for breakfast. But this one is a bit easier. ‘Beauty’ by Robin McKinley.

#7 – If you decided to learn another language, what language would you choose?
Gulp. I don’t know. French, Spanish, Latin, Gaelic, Orcish? Mostly I’d rather learn Old English so I can properly mutter Shakespearean insults at people who behave poorly.

#8 – Books or E-readers?
Books.

#9 – How peculiar. There isn’t one. *double checks* Yup, not there.

#10 – Your favorite real historical lady?
Okay, you’ve already heard me mutter and grumble about my blank mind, so I’ll shut up. Today it’s probably Queen Elizabeth the First since Cate Blanchett probably isn’t historic yet because she’s still around and doing stuff.

#11 – If a new planet was discovered and you got to name it, what name would you choose?
It depends on the type of planet, the color that the planet appears to our eyes, what sorts of beings might inhabit the planet, how old the planet appears to be, how many moons it has, how close to its sun it is, and a number of other things that make it impossible for me to give a name. Sorry.



Eleven Random Facts About Me:

#1 As I am writing this blog post, my laptop mouse touchpad has decided to lock itself. I have a little orange dot in the top left corner of the touchpad which means something is locked, and it refuses to move the cursor, although I can right click and left click. This is highly annoying and I am about to go bother my brother about it as soon as I finish this paragraph.

#2 Having restarted my computer and unlocked my mouse, per my technical brother’s advice, I crossed my fingers, all ten of them, and my eyes, and my ankles, and hoped that it would have saved my blog post draft. It did. 

#3 I have three small suitcases in my room full of library books.

#4 I love Chai tea hot or cold with a splash of vanilla extract, a little bit of sugar, and some cream. 

#5 My cat likes squash and coconut milk.

#6 It’s about -2 degrees outside and I was a popsicle after doing chores. Then I came inside and overheated in approximately .278 seconds because I was bundled so warmly.

#7 My favourite colours are blue, pink, green, purple, black, and silver.

#8 I am possibly addicted to old books. Old, old books with the thick, faded sheets of paper and the huge margins and the curious print. And the smell of old books…! 

#9 I am not claustrophobic, thank goodness. I probably could be but that would mean that I wouldn’t be able to scramble through hay lofts and attic rafters and motel basements as easily, which would be disappointing. 

#10 I have about 20 cubic feet of books in boxes waiting for me to inventory them and shelve them. They are all my own books. 

#11 I got Picasa Photo Editor last week and it’s entirely too much fun.


Eleven Questions for My Nominees:

#1 – What’s the ‘outdated’ phrase that you use the most? 
#2 – What was the name of your first character you created?
#3 – About how many books do you read a week?
#4 – If you were a dragon rider, what colour would your dragon be?
#5 – You’re in a fight. What’s your weapon of choice?
#6 – How many times a week do you use sticky notes?
#7 – When was the last time you hand-wrote a letter to someone?
#8 – How many story ideas have you come up with in the two and a half minutes before falling asleep?
#9  – Text or phone call?
#10 – Do your characters have conversations with you?
#11 – Stars or hearts?

~AnnieLou~