The life and words of Ashley, Erin, and Michelle

Book Review: Broken Glass Park May 7, 2010

For those of you who don’t know, I also review fiction for the website It’s a great website with reviews for many different genres, author interviews and all kinds of fun stuff. Recently I reviewed the book Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky and translated by Tim Mohr. Talk about a powerful read! If you want the full review just click here.


Facebook Fan Pages March 9, 2010

Filed under: Writing — michellehuegel @ 5:21 pm
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I’m quite proud of my most recent technological accomplishment – publishing a Facebook fan page! The page is for published author Patricia Strefling, who I’ve been working with lately on some editing projects as well as computer projects, such as setting up this Facebook fan page and her Etsy shop (she makes and sells beautiful crocheted baby afghans).

Creating the fan page took me back to my days at Davenport U as a marketing major, as we discussed ways to drive traffic to the page, links to other authors and sites, and choosing photos and blurbs for different areas of the page. The fan page is really all about marketing, but on a “grass roots” level – focused on connecting personally with your target market (your “fans”). The end goal, however, is still to drive sales/traffic/readership/etc. I think it’s a great idea and I’m excited to build my editing business to the point where I need a fan page!

I wish Facebook would build more customization capabilities into their fan pages. For example, I’d love to put up a sidebar box with all of Pat’s favorite links – to fellow authors, her publisher, etc. The link box available now will only show 2-3 links and I don’t think there’s a way to choose which ones are displayed (although I could be wrong).

I think the Discussion board area has great potential especially for the creative arts people like Pat. She can create a post for each of her books, and hopefully get some thoughtful discussions going and ideas for future stories! Check her out – her inspirational romance books Edwina and Cecilia are available now!

If you have any sort of business I encourage you to create a Facebook fan page. Seems like everyone is on Facebook nowadays, and it’s a great way to touch base with your friends and clients, and hopefully reach new ones! If you have a page already, would you mind sharing it with us in the comments? I’d love to see how you’re using this great feature!

So now I have a question for our LifeInk readers – do you think LifeInk needs a Facebook fan page? Would you be our fan? If we do launch a page in the future, what would you like to see on it? Besides, of course, blog post updates (because I know you never want to miss an episode :))!! How about additional links and info about posts? Updates on past posts? We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

PS – Of course, you can always find the three of us on Facebook! We are all on pretty frequently posting insightful and witty status updates (HAH!) and we love to chat!


Multicultural Discussions with an All-Blond Preschool Class February 23, 2010

Filed under: Life in General — Erin Joy @ 12:42 pm
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It was Sunday school on Valentine’s Day. The topic was the fact that Jesus loves everyone. The characters were Jesus and Matthew and Matthew’s tax collector friends.

The major challenge: find a way to show a classroom of blond-haired, blue-eyed children how there are so many different kinds of people in the world.

Clearly, looking at our class where I have the darkest hair, there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of first-hand examples, so I decided to make a trip to the library. I could have gone to the one in Lowell, but I knew the one between my work and home was significantly larger, so it gave me hopes that I would more likely be able to find something to help me out.

Walking into the children’s section at the library was incredibly overwhelming. Where was I supposed to find a book with photos of lots of different kids in between Angelina Ballerina and Walter the Farting Dog?

I walked to the front desk, and I talked to the librarian at the counter. She told me that our libraries are trying to place an emphasis on multicultural awareness, so there should be something for me. She then asked how old the kids were. I said between two and five.

“Sadly,” she said, “we have decided to make the program cover everyone except preschool age because no one makes multicultural books for preschoolers.” How disappointing. (As I look back, I think it’d be a great area to market, but at the time, all I could think about was how irritated I was.)

She then directed me to the children’s librarian, who directed me to a couple books, but they didn’t have a variety of people in any one of them. She seemed annoyed with me when I said, “Are there any books with less painted pictures?” She eventually found the perfect book with a ton of National Geographic pictures in it (everything from a kid herding cows in Africa to Amish kids playing ball in Pennsylvania).

The following Sunday we continued to learn about how there were differences between us and other people in the world by what we ate. I brought in tortilla chips, rice (with chopsticks) and bananas. I was impressed that the two oldest were able to use their chopsticks pretty well. We also talked about how a missionary is someone who tells people in other countries that Jesus loves them and sometimes they make sure the other people have a Bible in their language. As always, it was a thrill to see the excited looks on each of the children’s faces when they heard all of this.

For all that learning those kids have been doing, they somehow managed to associate the word “Europe” with “syrup.” But that’s preschoolers for you.


2009 Books In Review January 5, 2010

Last year, in my own personal blog, I wrote lists of three of this and three of that about 2008. I’ve decided against that this year.

One thing I have continued from 2008 through 2009 was my goal to read 10,000 pages in completed books (excluding children’s books, which have been too numerous to count) within one year.

Inspired by the similar goals of my friend Rachael Clanton, I started at January 1, 2008, and on December 31, 2009, I had reached about 9, 500 pages. I had missed it by one book. How disappointing.

So, I have decided to renew the goal. This isn’t a New Year’s “resolution”, just a goal to accomplish by next New Year’s.

This year, I was not nearly as successful, but I have enjoyed the books I read. One way to motivate myself has been to always read a book before seeing a movie based on it. As a result, I’m sure you’ll recognize a lot of the books I’ve read this year as major movies that have been released.

Another way I’ve managed to motivate myself to read new books is by following along with the Schindlers’ book club. While I might not drive all the way to Chicago every month to attend, I’ve attempted to read many of the books. (That was probably a good thing, as it took me two months to read October’s book.)

As 2009 came to a close, I must admit: I only read about 2/3 of my goal this year, 6,179 pages. I’ve read many more incomplete books and magazines, but I only included completed books.

Considering I haven’t yet met my goal, I am going to try again this year. Perhaps I’ll manage 10,000 in 2010? Who knows? I’ve already completed my first book.

Maybe this next year I should require that they are all in large print so that I can multiply pages faster. Hmmm.

I’ve also recently discovered the BBC book club. (My dear friend Katie sent me a link letting me know that John Irving would be on and discussing my favorite of his books, A Prayer for Owen Meany.) I might try to follow along with that book club as well, but that might be a bigger stretch.

Please suggest any for this following year if you know of any I might like in particular. Thanks to anyone who may have suggested one I’ve read this year.

Here is the list of the books I completed in 2009:

  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  • Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist
  • He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo
  • New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
  • The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
  • Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
  • Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
  • A Little Bit Wicked by Kristin Chenoweth
  • Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  • Blind Dates Can Be Murder by Mindy Starns Clark
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Crazy Love by Francis Chan
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
  • The World as I Remember It: Through the Eyes of a Ragamuffin by Rich Mullins

My list from 2008:

  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Crooked Little Heart by Anne Lamott
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
  • Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
  • The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
  • Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Baudolini by Umberto Eco
  • Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (twice)
  • Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Pirsoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  • The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
  • REVEAL by the WCA
  • The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

The End September 3, 2009

Filed under: Life in General,Writing — michellehuegel @ 3:27 pm
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And they all lived happily ever after... The End

Reaching the end of a book holds an exquisite sort of sadness for me. After finishing the last page, I’ll mope around in a funk for an hour or so – for a particularly good book it might even last a day. The better the book, the longer and deeper this odd depression lasts.

Now if the book is part of a series, I may skip this funk entirely in favor of immediately finding and beginning the next book. I love series – they delay the end! Unfortunately, it just all saves up and hits me when I finish the last book of the series. I may rail against the author and life in general for a good two days at the end of a great series (Harry Potter, anyone?).

Although I’ve never tried drugs, I imagine this might be a tiny bit of what it feels like to come down from a high. Just after you’ve crested the peak of exhilaration (the hero got the girl! they saved the world! everyone lives happily ever after!), comes the cold reality that this is not real life. My brief, glorious departure from reality has ended. This is the end of the line, please exit the train in an orderly fashion.

I bet I’m not the only one out there who reads books to escape from real life. That’s partly why I like fantasy and science fiction, because if I’m going to escape, I may as well go all the way! The problem is I’ve flown so far from the ordinary, riding the wings of an author’s imagination, that it’s hard to land. Some days I wish I could discover my secret magical ability and conjure a spell to fix my troubles, or be told that I’m really the long-lost heir to Fill-in-the-blank Kingdom. Then I could issue a royal decree to fix my troubles.

When I was younger I’d pretend that the book didn’t end, and I (as the heroine, of course) would go about practicing my magic spells or riding my new horse (I loved horse books too). But inevitably, the spells didn’t work, and the horse’s wheel would go flat, and I’d be left with real life.

Real Life sucks.

On the other hand, my Real Life includes a few pretty magical things–a handsome prince who (occasionally) does the dishes and gives me backrubs, a gorgeous baby boy whose smiles and coos are worth more than any castle, a family who loves and appreciates me, and cool friends I can both laugh and cry with.

Maybe my life isn’t a fantasy storybook, but it isn’t a horror novel either.


Chillin’ With the Children August 17, 2009

Filed under: Life in General — Erin Joy @ 12:06 pm
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A friend of mine once told me that he thinks children are much more fun than adults any day and that he’d rather hang out with them any day. I can almost agree.

One of my favorite things about really young children is the fact that they tend to be wholly willing to accept who people are, where they are in life. At camp this year, I spent nearly as much time with kids as I did adults, partially for that reason.

When you walk up to someone you haven’t seen in a while, the typical greeting is, “Hi! How’s it going? What have you been up to?” Right? Well, at least it is if you’re an adult. The only thing children care about is what you’re going to be doing with them right at that instant, “What are you doing here?”

Greeting so many old friends at camp proved much more difficult than I imagined this year. After about a day and a half of meeting up with everyone, having to answer that dreaded question of “What have you been up to?” with, “taking care of children,” “looking for a job,” or “trying to keep up with loans.” Having to say that over and over started to chip away at my self-esteem, no matter how much I tried to joke about it.

Whenever I was hanging out with the kids, not one of them asked me how my job search was going. Sure, they were some of the kids I watch back home, but still, not one of them asked if I had found a job yet. Not one of them asked why I still live with my parents; they just think, Why wouldn’t someone live with their parents? None of them make me feel as if I lack in potential compared to the person sitting next to me, they just run up and hang off of every one of my limbs (quite literally at times). More than once during camp, I was invited to stay for dinner or stay to play when I was just walking by a lot. I sometimes stayed or took the kids on a golf cart ride to the “Ark Park” to play, but sometimes, I had places to be, and the look on their faces just about made me cave. In contrast to the feeling that I sometimes overwhelm people my own age with my presence, it’s rather touching.

In a way, the Little Prince in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book was completely right. The things that “matter” to many adults (counting money, doing something constantly just to feel “useful,” getting drunk, having a job just to say that you have a job, etc.) are not the things that really matter in the long run. Being passionate about life, caring for the ones you love, those things are important, not worrying about what you do for a living.

While I am not saying that wasting away one’s life doing nothing is something notable, I do think that it is important not to lose sight of the important things that we deal with, the important people in our lives. I know that chillin’ with the kids gives me a boost of self-confidence that I don’t really find anywhere else because they haven’t been bogged down by all the worries and cares in life yet. They generally don’t have loans, jobs, pressure, stress or money issues to worry about yet. They just worry about what toy we’re going to play with next or what new adventure life has in store … and if their friends or “buddies” will be there with them.

And on the other hand, when it comes to thinking like an adult, I think the best part about it is that I sometimes get paid to hang out with these kids.