Becoming Wizards and Vampires

Click the link below to read a summary of a psych study that investigated¬†our fundamental “need to belong” by measuring the degree to which undergraduates identified with wizards and vampires after reading an excerpt from either Twilight or Harry Potter:

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/becoming-a-vampire-without-being-bitten-a-new-study-shows-that-reading-expands-our-self-concepts.html

What do you think of the findings? Do you agree with the C.S. Lewis quote–‘We read to know we are not alone?’

Personally, I’d much rather be a witch/wizard than a vampire… ūüôā

Situations Matter

Heads up, psychology fans: award-winning professor of social psychology at Tufts University, Sam Sommers, has written a book that is available for pre-order now at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1594488185/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_alp_IlMNnb0C4315B! It’s called Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World. Here’s a synopsis:

“The world around you is pulling your strings, shaping your innermost instincts and your most private thoughts. And you don‚Äôt even realize it.

Every day and in all walks of life, we overlook the enormous power of situations, of context in our lives. That‚Äôs a mistake, says Sam Sommers in his provocative new book, SITUATIONS MATTER (Riverhead Books, 12/29/11). Just as a viewer overlooks the frames around paintings, so do people overlook the influence of ordinary situations on the way they think and act. But frames ‚Äď situations ‚Äď do matter. Your experience viewing the painting wouldn‚Äôt be the same without them. The same is true for human nature.

In SITUATIONS MATTER, Sommers argues that understanding the powerful influence that context has in our lives and using these insights to rethink how we see the world makes us more effective at work, at home, and with others. He describes the pitfalls to avoid and offers insights into making better decisions and smarter observations about the world around us.”

 

Not only does the book sound cool, but the author is a great guy. Dr. Sommers¬†is intelligent, witty, and great at softball (let’s hope the psychology department can beat the chemistry department again this year!). He’s also tech-savvy, so you can “LIKE” his author page on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/?q=#/sam.sommers.author?ref=ts or follow him on Twitter (@SamSommers). Did you know he also writes a popular blog for Psychology Today called “Science of Small Talk”? It’s true! Get a preview of his writing skillz here: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/science-small-talk (his blog posts are always entertaining as well as interesting and informative, so,¬†after a little perusing, you’ll definitely want to pre-order Situations Matter).

As soon as I get my copy, I’ll add a review to the Bookshelf. But don’t wait¬†on me…pre-order today!

More Must-Read Books

Check out the new Bookshelf shelf (ha, awkward), stocked with miscellaneous book recommendations from yours truly. ūüôā

I’ve been reading a lot lately, but I’ve been disappointed with some of¬†my latest YA fantasy selections. So, for a change of pace, I picked up a few books outside of my typical niche, and I was very pleased to find that both Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen were great reads. They both made me want to sit around in my pajamas reading the day away, which, to me, is the mark of a “must-read.”

Take a peek at their synopses on the Misc. shelf!

The Happiness Advantage

I’m reading a book entitled The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, a professor of Harvard’s famed course “Positive Psychology” and the founder of Good Think, Inc, a company that¬†speaks to¬†major organizations around the world¬†on how they can improve their productivity through an emphasis on employee happiness (www.shawnachor.com).

The Happiness Advantage¬†describes “the seven principles of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work.” Its main message? Happiness is a predictor of success–not the other way around. In short, we grow up believing that we will be happy when we earn that next good grade or score that next big promotion, and so we always see happiness as something that can be attained down the road–the result of success, a reward for¬†achievement. But scientific research has debunked this myth. Research has shown, time and again, that happiness precedes¬†success, and Achor’s¬†book translates the findings of scholarly articles into an interesting and easy-to-read guide to happiness and productivity¬†for the public. While these principles are especially important for CEOs, managers, supervisors, and anyone else responsible for implementing change in the workplace, they also can be utilized by individuals seeking fulfillment as they strive toward their own personal goals.

Visit the Bookshelf (Psychology page) for a complete description of The Happiness Advantage, as well as a link to buy it at Barnes & Noble (you will not be disappointed!). In the meantime, I just wanted to include a brief excerpt that shows how some of these positive psychology principles relate to creativity:

“Extensive research has found that happiness actually has a very important evolutionary purpose, something Barbara Fredrickson has termed the ‘Broaden and Build Theory.’ Instead of narrowing our actions down to fight or flight as negative emotions do, positive ones broaden the amount of possibilities we process, making us more thoughtful, creative, and open to new ideas. For instance, individuals who are ‘primed’–meaning scientists help evoke a certain mindset or emotion before doing an experiment–to feel either amusement or contentment can think of a larger and wider array of thoughts and ideas than individuals who have been primed to feel either anxiety or anger. And when positive emotions broaden our scope of cognition and behavior in this way, they not only make us more creative, they help us build more intellectual, social, and physical resources we can rely upon in the future.” (pg. 44)

In the pages that follow, Achor¬†describes seven key principles of positive psychology and provides concrete suggestions for capitalizing on this research. I’m about 65 pages in–reading about the second principle–and this book has already filled me with excitement, optimism, and hope.¬†It’s becoming clear to me that Achor’s “happiness work ethic”¬†is a tangible catalyst for huge¬†gains in productivity and satisfaction in the workplace, and,¬†of particular relevance to writers and artists,¬†that this mindset can fuel¬†creativity and originality, as well.

Happy Reading! ūüôā

There’s this place called “The Library”…

So many books, and so little time. Not to mention so little money. We’ve all heard the saying, “If it ain’t broke, it must not be a grad student” (okay, maybe I tampered with that one just a bit). But you get my drift. My “Books to Read” list is ginormous, but my budget? Not so much.

So the other day I was thinking (as I sometimes do), and I reflected on how much I love Barnes & Noble. Especially lurking–in a non-creepy way (I guess I should have chosen a different verb then, huh?)–in the children’s/young adult section. My own creative works are aimed at young adults, and sometimes middle grade audiences, so¬†reading¬†all those books I love (see the Bookshelf page!) is technically considered “research” for my writing (cool, right?). I mean, how am I supposed to write young adult fantasy if I don’t know what’s already on the market, what’s selling, and what’s old news?

This is why my “Books to Read” list goes on for days; there’s so much out there that I want to get my hands on, but I don’t have the money to buy the complete works of Lemony Snicket, Tamora¬†Pierce, Rick Riordan, etc. This problem got me thinking: “I wish there was a place just like Barnes & Noble, where I¬†could go and sit and read for as long as I wanted without having to buy anything…and, hey,”–this is where I really started thinking crazy–“maybe I could even borrow a couple of books for free¬†and return them¬†at my convenience!”

Yeah, so¬†basically I reinvented the concept of a library…how clever of me.

In theory, libraries are great establishments. So why is it that I never go to the library to borrow books? I suppose part of it is a generational thing–I don’t want to date myself, here, but I¬†did have a set of encyclopedias when I was young that I used to look up information for school projects, but it didn’t take long before those were replaced by¬†encyclopedias on CD-rom (how futuristic!) and I started to become a “tech-savvy” kid. DOS prompts were traded for Microsoft Windows, and, before I could¬†say “floppy disk,”¬†the internet had come along and I had convinced my parents that IMing my friends would do much more for my typing skills than letting Mavis Beacon yell at me.

Now, as we all know, Google has become a verb (is Bing next?), and we’re all nano-seconds away from obtaining avalanches of information (both credible and not-so-credible) about any topic we could imagine, all with a few strokes of a keyboard/taps of a touch screen. This explains why I no longer feel the need to go to the library to do any sort of research. If I’m working on a¬†psych¬†manuscript, all I need is¬†to link to PsycINFO or Google Scholar through my university’s library website¬†and I can¬†view PDFs of¬†peer-reviewed articles to my heart’s content. Note that the library is still involved, here, but in a digital way. It’s great for accessing scholarly journals, but, at the present time,¬†books still need to be checked out the old-school way.

Am I just too lazy to get up and go to the library? I don’t think that can really be the issue, because I’m never too lazy to go to Barnes & Noble and stroll (better verb) through the aisles of children’s literature. I think part of my problem has to do with my stereotypes of what libraries are and what they’re used for (and even who they’re used by). My schema (or mental representation/set of associated features)¬†for The Library includes: a librarian, library cards, check-out desk with a slot for book returns, shelves of books in plastic jackets, a dusty smell, alphabetizing, Dewey decimal system (ha I pulled that one out of nowhere!), silence, carpets, the crackling of a binding when a book is opened for the first time in a long time, and tables and chairs strategically placed in corners. Perhaps most importantly, when I think of The Library, I think of old books–a few classics in a sea of¬†ancient stuff that I probably haven’t heard of, nor care to read. “The Library” doesn’t make me think of technology, or popular fiction, or NY Times bestsellers; it doesn’t make me think of e-books or audiobooks or graphic novels. In short, I see Barnes & Noble as containing all of the new stuff that I want to buy and read, and the library as a place I would go if I’d like to find a really random old book that I’m supposed to use for a class report.

But is my schema accurate? Are my stereotypes justified? Probably not. I mean, the last time I went to a public library¬†might have been¬†that field trip in elementary school, the one where I was captivated by Animalia and then a kid “leaned against” (or so he claimed)¬†the fire alarm and we all had to stand outside to wait for the fire trucks.

I guess there’s only one way to find out–I’ll have to visit a public library soon and see what I’ve been missing. Who knows–maybe libraries have kept up with the times more than I realize, and maybe my Barnes & Noble dream won’t be too far off the mark.

One thing is certain: if libraries have changed, my schema will have to change, too.

Climb Up to the Treehouse: New Book Jacket Summary Added

To read about my creative works-in-progress, or for a list of cool (and kid-friendly) links to author/book series website, visit the Treehouse!

“The Writer Who Couldn’t Read”

This NPR feature is a must-see for anyone interested in the brain and its role in our creative endeavors. It tells the story of a Canadian author who woke up one day, after unknowingly having suffered a stroke in the night, and discovered that he could no longer read. Naturally, he thought his writing career was over.

It wasn’t.¬†

Watch the video and read about his amazing story here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127745750

We Give Books: Help Children In Need for FREE

We Give Books is a great organization that donates books to children in need, all over the world. It’s easy for YOU to make an impact: simply go to the website (www.wegivebooks.org, or click on the image below to open a new window), select a campaign that you’d like to support, and then read a children’s book online for FREE. For every book you read online,¬†one book will be donated to the campaign of your choice. It’s that simple!

So what are you waiting for?¬†Everyone loves children’s books.¬†The selection of books on this website will continue to grow, so check back often–preferably in the company of the little ones in your life!¬†Show them how they can have fun reading AND making a difference in the lives of other children, all with a few clicks of a mouse.

Update Your Summer Reading List With Spells and Secrets

Check out the Children’s/Young Adult Fantasy page of The Bookshelf for a couple of new additions (or ‘editions’! har¬†har). The Magic Thief series by Sarah Prineas¬†will be especially appreciated by the¬†younger end of the 9-12 spectrum, while The Black Book of Secrets by F. E. Higgins¬†is a darkly satisfying read¬†for older kids, teens, and even discriminating adults! These¬†titles have enriched my summer reading list–entertaining me during my recuperation from¬†two separate¬†neck surgeries–and F. E. Higgins has even¬†earned herself a place on my list of¬†go-to authors.

Next up on my reading list is the (aforementioned) seventh book in the Artemis Fowl series, followed by Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror by Jennifer Boylan.¬†Falcon Quinn¬†may be¬†Jenny Boylan’s¬†first children’s novel, but¬†she¬†is widely known as¬†the¬†bestselling author of the memoirs She’s Not There and I’m Looking Through You, both of which captured my interest¬†with their anecdotes and humor and moved me with their honesty and authenticity. Jenny Boylan resides in¬†my home state of¬†Maine and is an¬†English professor¬†at one of the finest¬†colleges in the country, so I cannot wait to read Falcon Quinn.¬†Stay tuned for these upcoming reviews.

Thanks for reading, as well as¬†for your understanding regarding my lack of research posts this summer. My medical leave will end in September, and then it will be back to the thrilling¬†world of¬†academia¬†for me! So don’t fret–more discussions on the¬†intricacies of the relationship¬†between psychology and creativity will¬†inevitably follow…

Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter: Coming Soon…

…to a bookstore and movie theatre near you! Two exciting releases to look forward to…

 

(1) Eoin Colfer fans are getting ready for The Atlantis Complex, the 7th installment in the popular Artemis Fowl series. It releases on August 3rd, and you can preorder it here: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Artemis-Fowl/Eoin-Colfer/e/9781423128199/?itm=3&USRI=eoin+colfer. (see my Bookshelf page for a little review of the entire action-packed series!)

(2)¬†And, of course, as any lover of children’s fantasy will know, Part I of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be taking cinemas by storm this November. (I, for one, am rereading the entire HP series in preparation :-P)¬† Visit the official site for the trailer: http://harrypotter.warnerbros.com/harrypotterandthedeathlyhallows/

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