Book Post: The Charmed List

Don’t just read The Charmed List... Experience it.

I read The Charmed List by Julie Abe after yet again pouring over manuscript wish lists on agent websites. At this point, I spend a lot of my life doing this. While it hasn’t yet left me with an agent of my very own, it has helped grow my to be read list.

Here we go: All Ellie wants is to live it up on summer vacation, working her way through her anti-wallflower list with her best friend, Lia, at her side. But it all goes to heck when an attempt at revenge on Jack—her former best friend, but current sworn enemy—leads to Lia discovering that magic exists. Yes, you heard that right, magic exists! Turns out the magic aware community has strict consequences for showing non magic folks magic. Although the worst consequence of all comes from Ellie’s parents: driving hundreds of miles with only Jack to a magic conference while their parents stay behind and try to clean up the mess. Suddenly, Ellie isn’t so excited for summer when the hardest task ahead of her is surviving being stuck with her mortal enemy.

I get Ellie. She’s quiet and creative, but mostly keeps to herself. Her talent is drawing. She has a lot of completed pieces, she’s even uploaded them to an Instagram account. The only problem is she can’t muster the courage to make it public. In fact, she hasn’t shown her work to anyone at all, not even her best friend or sister.

In high school, I took a drawing class, but only because it met an elective credit I needed to graduate. I never intended to take another course in this area. Towards the end of the class, I had to draw a picture of an animal. While most people picked dogs, cats, or other mammals, I picked a frog. (Isn’t he cute!)

Like all my other projects that semester, I worked on it quietly, not really talking much to the other artists in my class. When I turned it in I expected to get a decent grade. I didn’t expect it to wind up in a display case outside my teacher’s room. Or for her to try to talk me into taking the next level drawing class. Or to hear that people were so curious about who had drawn the amphibian that they were asking around to find out…It was basically my worst nightmare. Even though I kind of wanted to, I didn’t take another drawing course.

I don’t think it’s uncommon for people to find themselves in a similar spot for many reasons. Even today, if I complete something that I’m proud of, there’s a big piece of me that still tries to convince myself to hide it away. I can usually think of at least three ways that it could be made better. If that’s the case, I should make some changes before I let anyone else see it, right? Definitely! This is known as I’m my harshest critic syndrome. I also regularly have the thought, why would anyone else care about what I’m doing? Sure, this project means something to me, but that’s because I put my blood sweat and tears into it.

I’m getting better at overcoming these obstacles. I’ve found that allowing others to see my work makes it possible to get worthwhile feedback. In most cases people have something complimentary to say. And in the event that they have some criticism, it’s usually helpful in honing my craft. I recently traded manuscripts with a fellow writer for beta reading. The feedback I got back was incredibly thorough. It was clear lots of time and effort went into both the praise and criticism. As a result, I’ve been revising this particular manuscript. I can already tell the characters are more compelling, and the plot has more depth. If I hadn’t taken the step to share this piece, it would have never become what it is today. That would be sad.

Now the big question: As Ellie makes her way to the magic conference with her nemesis, will she overcome her personal obstacles and put herself out there? As always, you have to read to find out.

There you have it. Do yourself a favor and read The Charmed List. As you read Ellie’s story, I hope you’ll consider what talents you have to share with others. Complete, incomplete, it really doesn’t matter. If you put your work out there, you never know what you’ll discover about your craft, or even yourself.

If you haven’t already read The Charmed List, what are you waiting for? If you already have, why not pick it up again? Either way, take my advice when you do—don’t just read it, experience it!

Want information about purchasing this book from Neighborhood Reads, a local Washington, MO book store? Click the book cover above!

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