That is not the answer.

I am a Christian.

How many will stop reading this post because of that?

What if I said I was Muslim?

How many others would stop then?

I find it difficult to talk about my faith on social media, and so mostly, I don’t. My Facebook feed is divided: half people I go to church with and half I have met in my life as a young adult writer and screenwriter. A lot of conservatives, just as many liberals. I see both sides to every popular argument going on in America. I rarely add my own voice to the debate. Partly because I do not want to create more noise, and partly because I do not always know what I feel is right.

Christians say go to the Bible, the answers are there. But it’s easy to misinterpret the Bible based on my own desires, based on my own experiences, the environment I live in, the world I am faced with or wishing for. Ultimately, faith is personal and a journey and not easy. My path and yours are different, and therefor the way I choose to live is not subject to your approval. The way you live is not for me to discuss or diminish. My answer from God is not yours.

When I lived in New York City, I constantly encountered people that did not believe the same thing as I did. These people did not shock me or wound me. They were not my enemies because they were gay or atheists, because they were the children of a Muslim, because they ascribed to a different spiritual journey or lifestyle.

But still my faith was shaken. And it was good for me. It taught me who I really was, and it helped me learn true empathy, it opened my mind. Faith is not made sturdy without testing. I am no lesser now because I want to accept other people for who they are and what they believe, because I question things more freely, because I am willing to change. I do not care about a person’s sexual orientation, race or religious affiliations as long as they are kind and they treat me with respect.

That is the only thing that matters in a friend, in a world. How we treat each other.

I get tired of the fighting. I want very little from my friends. I want them to laugh with me. I want them to listen to me. I want them to be brave. I want them to respect my choices. These are all things we should be able to do, but more and more it seems we can’t. We think it is our job to show someone the light, and I don’t mean the Light of the World. We spend a lot of time arguing particulars. If someone doesn’t support the woman’s right to choose, they are trying to control women. If someone thinks abortions aren’t murder, they are compared to Hitler — Hitler, who slaughtered millions of Jews because of his own bigotry and fear. Bigotry and fear lead nowhere good fast.

I will not fight you on these or any other issue because for every horror story on one side of the coin, there is an equally horrible one on the other. There is no good answer in a world like this one. There are only more questions.

I have a very good friend that used to, after we had a few glasses of wine, always start up a debate. And I would always listen because her views and feelings were important to me. We would go round and round on the BIG questions of War and Death and Illness, Rape and Violence, and she would always ask me how I could acknowledge all of these things and still believe in God. I would always tell her the same thing, because I choose to.

For me it really is that simple. But this fight we are in all around the world, that is not simple. It is painful and nuanced, layered and eternal. I have learned there is no one answer to silence every voice.

Just be the very best possible version of the person you think you are meant to be. Don’t be an ass no matter your religion, race, gender or lifestyle. Don’t try to conform others to your liking. Be who you are and have a little faith that that is what you are meant to do, that is enough, that is your answer. Show don’t tell. Act when you need to, when it is right for you. Be willing to listen, be brave enough to speak your truth, and be kind enough to shut up when you are finished.

A Thank You Letter to Mockingjay

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This is not an essay on the merits or failures of Mockingjay the book or the film. It is not a critique.

This is a thank you letter.

But first you must understand my history with this story.

On the day before my twenty-sixth birthday, five years ago, at eleven o’clock at night, I finished reading Mockingjay for the very first time. Having read all the Hunger Games books in the span of three days, I had gotten too absorbed, too close to these fictional people, this fictional war, those fictional deaths. I spent my birthday sobbing. I struggled to make sense of the sudden dark hole I found myself in. I was an adult, a thinking woman who was raising a child and married and paying a mortgage, but I couldn’t have a conversation that day without welling up in tears.

It created a flood out of which many, many things flowed. I discovered the Young Adult genre because of these books, and began consuming fiction like it was some sort of gloriously delectable goody. I started writing my own fiction, too. Believing I could and should become an author. I found my own voice that way, imitating Suzanne Collins, Maggie Steifvater, Libba Bray — others, greats — until out of their brilliant voices my own, still raw but real, began to emerge.

But there was something I couldn’t shake. A gnawing that unsettled me and left me at a loss for words to explain. As life changing as The Hunger Games was for me, it also felt unfinished. Not wrong in the way Gilmore Girls or Lost will always be because of the way they ended, but like I was waiting for the rest of the story. I had walked with Katniss through the Games, through a war, through deaths and sacrifices, victory and loss, but the time I spent in her triumph was too short. What I needed for this reluctant hero was to experience the simplicity she had always wanted. A life without war and hunger — the things I would argue Katniss ultimately fought the Games and the war for. Even more than Prim or Peeta.

Two pages in an Epilogue, no matter how beautiful, were not enough for me.

Finally, I saw MockingjayPart 2, and in the last minutes of the movie I found myself sobbing uncontrollably. Finally, I got what I needed for my hero and myself.

I watched the war’s harshness melt away from Katniss. I saw her look at Peeta like he was someone she wanted and not just needed to survive. I got to see her decide to lie beside him, letting him hold her and love her back. I saw her babies. And for a few minutes I wasn’t watching Jennifer Lawrence play a character, but I was with Katniss again. My Katniss. The one I had followed to war five years ago. The one that made me remember that books possess the power to change me when I let them.

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I was grateful. I found closure.

Certainly, my experience speaks to how the visual story can communicate a different part of the character’s experience. Katniss was a hard character to ever really know, even for a reader in her head, but when I saw her living on screen she proved to me, finally, that all she’d walked through had been worth it.

But I think it was more than that.

Humans crave the triumph of good over evil — unless you’re a Death Eater or member of Hydra or Sauron. That is why the heroes journey has been written in every form imaginable, and then was written again from another point of view, and then reversed, over and over and over.

We need Harry to walk into the Forbidden Forest and face Voldemort. We need Frodo to take the ring, and when he falters we need Sam to make sure he drops it in the fires of Mordor. We need Buffy to sacrifice herself for her sister and stop the end of the world…again. But I almost think sometimes we need the After more.

We need to see that Harry got married and holds down a job, Ginny probably bakes him pie on Sundays, and James likely wants one of those Muggle video game systems. We need to see Frodo go with the Elves because he gave too much of himself to his journey and now he needs to a quiet place to pass his last days.

We have to see that Katniss didn’t need power and prestige to consider herself the winner of the Games. She had done all she did so she could live a life most of us would find dull. The movie gave me that moment in a way the book alone had not been able to. I needed it.

We are in war all over the world. The horrors we experience in the fictional Panem are happening in real, more brutal ways, now, here, in our backyards, where our children live and play and learn. The reason we fight back isn’t for world peace. Peace is an unattainable dream. Mockingjay doesn’t pretend that it is, and I am not pretending it should be.

But what it promises is this: Our children are worth it. Humanity is worth it.

We don’t need much to win. Just a table filled with family and friends, the promise to work harder, the action of standing up to the bullies or the tyrants, to the terror and the violence. Unity is impossible, so stop seeking it. We will never all agree on policy or faith, whether guns should be banned or abortions outlawed. We are so divided, and in our division we are weakened. We will lose and become enemies, and when we need to, we will fail each other. We will riot and fight. We will kill. We will look the other way.

We need heroes in our stories, but we are the only heroes available to this world. Us, thinking and feeling human beings that allow our hearts to be changed.Our heroes journey starts when we say yes. Yes, I’ll give back to the hurt and the wounded. Yes, I’ll listen. Yes, I’ll look at the pain and not ignore it just because it is not mine.

This is a thank you to Mockingjay, Part 2 for reminding me why I shouldn’t give up the fight. Why I can be my own hero in my own life. Why I already am.

What’s Up Wedesday

TreeWUWWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime or Erin’s blog.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done What’s up Wednesday! I hope everyone is having a wonderfully epic summer.

What I’m Reading

Currently doing beta reading. Which is top priority for reading right now as I have a lot to get caught up on and very little reading time this summer. I also started If I Stay by Gayle Forman, and so far am loving it. I haven’t read anything by Gayle Forman yet, but have heard nothing but good things. And with the upcoming movie, I thought I’d start there!

What I’m Writing

I’ve been working on a feature length screenplay pretty much exclusively for the past two weeks. I am over 1/3 of the way through and just so very happy with it. The dialog, which is maybe the most important thing in screenwriting, is coming really naturally. I am taking this to mean I have a firm grasp on my characters. Right now I am just working on the main plot lines, and getting the basic story down. I had some breakthrough figuring out how all the main plot lines will converge at the end yesterday, which was THRILLING.

What Inspires Me

This may sound very strange, but my brother and his family. Three years ago, right before my husband and I moved to Brooklyn, my brother, his wife and young daughter moved to Israel. Right now, they are right in the middle of war in a foreign country. Their faith and bravery to stay in their home in Jerusalem in the midst of this chaos is incredible. Your thoughts and prayers for the peace of that nation are appreciated, personally, by me and my family. This is a terrifying time, it is meant to unsettle and unnerve, to get those who live there out of safety and into harms way. War does that, is touches the innocent and the foolhardy alike. When the war is over the land, over faith and long standing hatred, there are no winners. There can’t be.

What Else I’m Up To

Everything that is involved in having an epic summer with my son.

Also. I got New Hair (that is what all the kids at Sam’s school call it) and Sam asked me what “the hair color doctor” had to do to give me this hair. I explained it was a lot like painting.

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Have a wonderful Wednesday! And drop by comments to tell me what’s up with you!