Best YA Books About the End of the World | TJ Withers-Ryan

I have always found books helpful in a crisis.

I’m not saying I’d sit down in a burning house and open my ebook reader…

But in that burning house, it’s because of the books I’ve read that I’d know to recognise whether the fire is getting out of control based on the colour and movement of the smoke.

It’s because of books that I’d know to check if a handle is hot before opening the door to another room.

It’s because of books that I’ve already spent time tonight about what I’d grab if I had to run out the door – my baby, my phone, and a blanket or jumper to keep the two of us warm.

So when the Australian government announced pandemic status for coronavirus yesterday, I had already been thinking in “prepper” mode for weeks, preparing for the end of the world, buying canned food, NOT toilet paper. 🙄

And the reason I have prepped, not panicked, is all because of a few AWESOME series of YA books that got me thinking about what different survival scenarios might require of me.

How I might be challenged.

How I could rise to the occasion.

I also found myself less scared after reading books, fiction, about things that could potentially happen for real in my lifetime – things like famine, climate destruction, and war.

Clarification: I’m not saying the world is ending. But a lot of scary things are happening. My country, Australia, has had more bushfires in the past months than it’s had per year at any point in history. Coronavirus is rapidly spreading across the globe and although it’s usually not deadly, it’s (so far) also looking not very stoppable. Climate change is flooding entire states and wiping cities off the map, while other states are crying out in the worst droughts of more than a decade. My only point is that it’s worth being prepared for all the big things that are happening, and more big things that might be in our future.

So here are my favourite reads for young people at the end of the world, in no particular order. I’ve tagged them with movie style ratings (PG, M, etc.) so you can make your own decisions about whether or not you’re mature enough to read each book.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are feeling anxious or depressed about the world events happening around you, please talk to an adult you trust. This might be your parents, a trusted teacher or your school chaplain, or even a professional counsellor. They can help you talk about these big events that cause big emotions, and help you find ways to stay upbeat and cope practically and emotionally with whatever life throws your way. If you’re feeling like all hope is lost, I’d encourage you to try the Beyond Blue online chat or their phone helpline.

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Treasure | Youth Group Devotions by TJ Talk

A youth group or kids club devotion for ages 5 to 15 on treasure

So tonight was all about pirates and what’s one thing pirates love more than anything else? What do you think?

[discussion]

Those are all great answers, and the one I want to talk about tonight is treasure – pirates love treasure!

Do you have anything in life that you would call your “treasure”? Your most precious things?

[discussion]

God actually talks about treasure in the Bible in a bunch of different places, and the first one I’m going to talk about tonight is Matthew 13, where Jesus says that God’s world, the kingdom of heaven, is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man finds that treasure, he sells everything he owns so that he has enough money to buy the field that contains the treasure – because he knows that treasure is so precious, it’s worth more than everything he owns.

If we think about this story for a second, Jesus is saying that God’s world – a world where people worship God, where people live sustainably and they live in harmony with nature, a world where people actually love each other and don’t hurt each other, a world where everyone has enough to eat – that world is so precious that it’s worth more than everything you own.

God’s world – a world where people worship God, where people live sustainably and they live in harmony with nature, a world where people actually love each other and don’t hurt each other, a world where everyone has enough to eat – that world is worth more than anything you could own

Then in Luke 12, Jesus literally tells his disciples, sell the things you own and give money to the poor. That way, you will earn a treasure in heaven that doesn’t disappear or break, and one that no thief could steal, and no bugs could eat it up. Basically it’s a reminder of what we were talking about a few weeks ago – that everything in life is temporary except for God. So if you make God your treasure, if you love God more than you love new clothes or music or money, and you use the things you have to help other people, not just yourself, then you won’t be disappointed when your “things” don’t last – because God does last.

God will always love you, no matter what else is happening in your life.

Let’s pray. God, please help us to love you more than we love anything else. Help us to have a great week and to help other people to have a great week, too. Amen.

Top 13 Best DIY Baby Sensory Toys

Babies don’t need much to enjoy playing with you, and their favourite toys are not what you might expect (if you don’t yet have kids yourself).

For a baby’s first few months, all you really need is things that stimulate your baby’s senses – sensory toys – and the great thing is that almost all of these can be DIY things you make yourself, or items you already have around home.

So I’ve compiled a list of the top 13 baby sensory toys you can DIY or raid your cupboards for! (It was meant to be 10 but there are just too many good ones!)

Some of the photos below show my daughter, Zoe, so please be sensitive which images you use when sharing this post. Thanks!

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How do I know if it’s God’s will? Sticking to your beliefs in work and creativity

Can we know the will of God when making decisions? How do I know if I’m doing God’s will? How do I know if my feet are on the right path for God’s plan for me? How can I honour God with my work? How can I honour God in my writing or my art?

I was asked this recently by a friend and I’m going to answer it here as well because I think this question fundamentally affects our decisions when we’re living out our faith.

I went to the Planetarium recently and re-discovered that we are all just specks in this giant universe – no, less than specks. We cannot be seen from the moon. Our planet cannot be seen from outside the Milky Way.

We are miniscule – but God loves each of us as individuals, and Jeremiah 29:11 says God has a great plan for our lives. I can’t claim to know the will of God. But here’s what I think about when I’m trying to live out God’s will in both my paid work and my creative projects.

My feet at the labyrinth in Sydney Centennial Park.

About to start the labyrinth in Sydney Centennial Park. Image source: My camera.

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Best books and media I’ve found in 2016 so far

We’re only a few days into 2016 but I have found some AMAZING reads in my first days of 2016, which have also been my last few days of annual leave.

As a writer and editor, my “to read” list is too long for me to ever actually read, if it’s really true that you can only get through about 3,000 in the average lifetime. In my Google Docs “Books” folder, the list of all the books I’ve read in my life (only about 600 that I can remember so far) is far smaller than the list of books I would like to read (about 1 million). So I’ve told you how I chose the books I read last year, and I can definitely say I’m sticking with that strategy in 2016.

If you don’t know what to get yourself in the Boxing Day sales, and you have money left over after purchasing some truly meaningful gifts from Gifts of CompassionTEAR’s Useful Gifts, Christian Blind Mission’s Meaningful Gifts, or some other world-changing charity … then please consider the following reads for belated Christmas gifts to yourself.

Get ready.

They’ll knock your socks off.

Best books made of paper and stuff in January 2016

My January 2016 reads lined up. Image source: My camera.

My January 2016 reads lined up. Image source: My camera.

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Vote on your favourite blog rebrand ideas

I’ve identified the major themes that I’d like to write about in the future, so I made a survey so you can vote on your favourites among these blog ideas!

It is here: Survey Monkey TJ Withers-Ryan

I can’t say the survey results will make my decision for me re blogging, but I would 100% appreciate reader feedback on what you are most interested in reading about.

God bless,

TJ

Image source: TJ Ryan photo, icanhascheezburger lolcat builder

Image source: TJ Ryan photo, icanhascheezburger lolcat builder

Why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year

I was very touched to look up my blog statistics today and see that, gosh, pretty much as many people are reading my blog this month – when I’ve posted literally nothing – as any other month. In my head, this could be caused by many possibilities, all of them fairly positive – you actually find what I wrote in the past interesting, so you came back to reread it, or you told other people about it; or new people found the blog on Google and read something; or you all missed me and kept checking the blog daily to see if I’d written anything new yet.

Well, I haven’t written anything new. But I don’t feel bad about it – and here’s why you don’t need to feel bad about it either.

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What self-care looked like for me this winter

Some of my self-care helpers.

Some of my self-care helpers.

I’ve been reading about self-care. Here’s what it looks like for me this winter.

In the picture above, you can see some of my dedicated self-care helpers: Aloe vera tissues, cuppa tea, soy cheese crackers, inspiring documentary about miracle healers, a trip to the movies, a big, warm, fluffy blanket, and in the background, you can just make out my adorable baby CD player.

This year, I just read this post by Mrs Modern Darcy on what self-care can look like, this post on The Peaceful Wife about taking care of yourselves to love others better, and this post on Propel Women on how women in leadership can make time for self-care.

These posts are good reminders that self-care – taking care of yourself and doing a few things every day just to make yourself happy – is not just for you. It’s for everyone around you who needs your love and attention. You can’t give anyone love and attention when your needs haven’t been met and you feel out of sorts.

And the things that wear you out don’t need to be bad things. Even good things like serving, caring, and giving friendship, can all take energy. If we’re not recharging, we soon run out of love to give.

Stress from doing too many good things is not a new thing. Even Moses in the Bible got told off for trying to do too much at once without taking care of himself. His father-in-law Jethro warned him, “The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” (Exodus 18: 17-18, NASB)

Remember how on the plane, they say to put on your own oxygen mask before you put on your kids’? They say that because if you don’t save yourself, you cannot save your kids. It’s not selfish. It’s essential.

And creativity? Forget about it! If you’re stressed, you are waaaaay less creative.

So I was inspired me to write out my own list of what helps me stay sane and productive on a daily basis, and helps me to love and work better. I hope it inspires you like it did me!

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8 writing tips for memoir and biography

A sunset I captured with my camera in Sydney.

A sunset I captured with my camera in Sydney.

I saw the most awesome documentary last week about healers all over the world. Within 2 minutes, I had tears leaking out because of what a good story a healing makes. Before, broken and hurting and helpless to do anything about it; afterwards, healed and whole and grateful to God. The best part is that the story is true.

This post – and my free ebook you can download below – is for the life writers of true stories who want some “back to basics” reminders for how to get your story on paper. Whether you’re writing memoir, autobiography, or biography, a few simple principles hold true. And most of them are fairly easy to spot in your own writing, so you can save a lot of time by referring back to these principles as you write.

Memoirs and biographies need to feel real for the reader. They need real drama.

Yes, it’s your story, but it’s still a story. Your story – or the story of the person whose life you’re chronicling – has already captured your attention and imagination and heart. It needs to be written in a way that also captures the reader’s attention and their heart.

Here’s my 8 basic tips – one for every day of the week, plus an extra.

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Using the right words matters – a lesson for companies big and little

Last week one of the juniors at work said, “What’s SEO?”

Bless his little heart. He’s in his first year of journalism and they haven’t covered search engine optimisation yet. If you don’t know what it means either, it basically means using the right words so that people can find the content they want easily, in the place they expect it to be.

Here’s my case study on why using the right words is important for businesses big and small.

Last week for work I was researching which service station chains had environmental repair programs, community support programs or sponsored worthy charitable causes. (These articles coming soon to an interwebs near you.)

Most of the chains I researched made that information really easy to find: “Environment”, “Community partnerships”, “Sponsorships”, “Giving Back”, or even “Why you can trust Our Company not to screw up your world”.

But some of them didn’t list the information at all, or they buried it in their corporate reports under “Governance structures” or “Company policies”. Um, hello?

Imagine if I was a prospective customer instead of a journalist – they just lost themselves a sale because I couldn’t find the information I wanted.

So today’s big lesson is for everyone in a company, whether big or small. From web designers to corporate writers to CEOs:

Write for the customer.

Nobody else matters.

And even if this non-customer person does matter, you don’t write stuff for them on the public website; you put what they need into a report and give it to them in a professional package.

Otherwise, all you’re doing is causing frustration and driving potential customers away from your company. Like singing opera when your audience came to hear a musical – a similar concept in most ways, but very, very different in terms of user-friendliness.

The opera 'La Boheme', being performed at the Teatro Solis in Montevideo in August 2005. Image source: Foto te Casur, Ireland's Own

The opera ‘La Boheme’, being performed at the Teatro Solis in Montevideo in August 2005. Image source: Foto te Casur, Ireland’s Own

What are the “right words” that I mentioned? They change over time, unfortunately, so you need to always be on the ball, checking what other people in your field are up to. Regularly view your competitors’ websites and do a “spot the differences” with your own website.

This won’t be a long post about SEO or copywriting or web design. All of that is pretty boring if it’s not your passion, and you can pay someone else to do it. (I’ve done a stack of copywriting in my career so far because I love it.) I just wanted a chance to vent about companies whose websites aren’t user-friendly.

Phew.

End vent. 🙂

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2015. Re-blogging is always highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.