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Senior Natasha Lane Publishes First Novel

Publishing a novel is something that many people dream of accomplishing throughout their lifetimes, but for senior, Natasha Lane, she is already well on her way to becoming a successful, published novelist. As a Campus Correspondent for Her Campus Juniata, I had the opportunity to interview Natasha to find out more about her accomplishments.

Her love for writing first started when she was a young girl. She said, “I had a love for reading, and that love for reading just changed into a love for writing. I started off writing just poetry, which was good because it was a way to get my emotions out. I guess I was an angry kid for various reasons, so I wrote poetry to get my feelings out.”

In 8th grade, Natasha had to write a short-story for class, and she told her teacher that she wanted to make it into a full-length novel. Her teacher responded, “Well, then why don’t you do it?” So at the age of 13, Natasha wrote her first novel and got into the habit of scribbling down ideas for future novels in a little notebook.

Although she has had previous works published in the past, A Meeting at the Grocery Store was the first novel that she had had published.

Natasha Lane holding her 1st published novel and a newspaper article featuring her work.

“I originally submitted a fantasy novel to Books to Go Now, but they rejected it. They said that they prefer to publish e-books versus print copies, but they said, ‘We can tell you can write, so would you come back on as romance writer for us?’”

“I am one of those people who used to look down on romance novels because sometimes it can just be so cliché with a damsel in distress and perfect cookie-cutter characters. You see people like Fabio and shirtless cowboys, but I thought that maybe I could write my novel in a way that wasn’t so cliché.”

Natasha then wrote A Meeting at the Grocery Store for the next several months, which is now available for purchase on Amazon. She is also working on a second novel titled, Waiting for Mistletoe, which should be available for purchase sometime this month. Additionally, she is writing a sequel for A Meeting at the Grocery Store.

When asked about where she finds inspiration for her novels, she said, “I daydream all the time. I am like the queen of daydreaming. I don’t really force myself to daydream, but if something isn’t really interesting to me in class, I let my mind just go. And sometimes, I’m inspired by things that have happened in my life. Sometimes, I reflect on past events, and I think, ‘I wish I could have handled that event differently, or I wish I was the person I am now so that I would have known how to handle that better.’”

In the future, Natasha hopes to find a bigger publishing company and also focus on entrepreneurship. She has an individualized POE of Entrepreneurial Journalism and hopes to one day work as either the communications or marketing director in a non-profit sector, while also continuing her love for creative writing.

“I love business, and I love creative writing. I can’t really see myself choosing one over the other, so I pray that I won’t ever have to choose,” said Natasha.

When asked which author she emulated the most, she responded, “I don’t really follow too many authors. I mainly just read the titles of books and decide if I would like them or not, but I do know that I want to be an original. One time when I was younger, my uncle was talking with me about what I wanted to do with my life. He said, ‘You could be the next Oprah Winfrey,’ and I said, ‘I don’t want to be the next Oprah Winfrey. I want to be the first Natasha Lane.’ And that’s the truth. I don’t want to be a copy of someone else. I want to be an original.”

Natasha is truly an inspiration for all writers, and I wish her the very best in all of her future endeavors!

To purchase A Meeting at the Grocery, check it out on Amazon!

The cover of “A Meeting at the Grocery Store” by Natasha Lane

I teach to…

CA Name Plate web

I don’t think it’s just Juniata College nor do I think it’s just Pennsylvania. Students studying to be teachers all over the country are frequently criticized and their choice is questioned. As someone who’s been a teacher at heart since I learned to talk, this is why I teach.

I teach to create a brighter future. I can’t change the hate, discrimination, and violence in the world today, but I can change it for the future. The students in my classroom are the future, and preschool and elementary schoolers’ attitudes are malleable in a way that adults’ attitudes aren’t. I’m cognizant of the influence I have in their lives and use that influence to teach an anti-bias curriculum that actively seeks to dispel stereotypes.

I teach to share. That’s what teaching is, really. It’s just sharing. I love books, so I try to share that love of reading with my students. I love science, so I cultivate curiosity and problem-solving through science lessons and activities. I have a different perspective on life and I come from a different generation than my students, so I have all of that rich culture and history to share as well. And sharing is reciprocal. I create a classroom space in which my students feel comfortable sharing their life experiences and knowledge with me. I believe that, regardless of age or authority, we should all be able to share our knowledge and experience with each other and learn from others.

I teach to learn. Kids are way smarter than adults give them credit for, and I teach to learn from them. Some kids know more about dinosaurs than I will ever know, some have had unique life experiences that I don’t know anything about, and some are emotionally intelligent beyond their years. Each child has a unique knowledge base to share with the world, and they’re so enthusiastic to share what they know. It’s my job as a teacher to value their knowledge and learn from them. In terms of emotional well-being and acceptance of differences, kids are some of the wisest people I know. As a teacher, it’s both my job to teach my students and to learn from them.

I teach to make a difference in someone’s life. Students come into my classroom from many different homes and kinds of families, and some come to school with a lot of emotional baggage. It’s my job to provide a safe, caring environment for every student, and create a classroom in which all students can be successful. For many students, teachers are their safe haven and school is a place where they can feel safe and loved. That’s a big responsibility, but it’s a responsibility that comes with so many rewards.

I teach for a multitude of reasons, and these are just a few of them. But, regardless of why I teach, I’m glad I teach at Juniata. Juniata’s Education department is unique and continues to prepare me well for life after graduation. Every semester, I have a practicum in which I get hands-on experience in a preschool or elementary school classroom. In addition to classroom time, my classes teach me valuable skills for other aspects of teaching, including writing IEPs, creating transition plans, and facilitating home visits for families. Juniata has prepared me well for teaching and will continue to prepare me over the course of the next 2 ½ years. There are a million reasons why I teach, and a million and one reasons why I’m an Ed POE at Juniata.

Hug an Atheist

MM Hug an Atheist webThe Secular Student Alliance is a newer club on campus that offers Secular students a community to discuss and debate their ideologies and beliefs.

Jaylene Brown, the Secular Student Alliance President, states that the club is important for students with beliefs that do not necessarily coincide with organized religion to have a place to converse about their secular identifies and spiritualties. She believes “You need to be very open about your beliefs because that is who you are. Your beliefs make you who you are. If religious people don’t have a problem expressing what they believe in, why should individuals who don’t necessarily belong to a certain religion?”

The Secular Student alliance on campus is a group of secular students with secular ideologies. The word alliance implies the word community and that is what this club is trying to create. It is trying to create a community for secular students here on campus. Recently, they showed a documentary entitled Hug an Atheist, which provided a very humane look to Atheists in an attempt to break common stereotypes.

This club, like many others on campus, is trying to establish a community or a safe place on campus for students who are different from the stereotype. The Secular Student Alliance wants secular students to come and talk about what they believe in, and they welcome students who do belong to an established religion. They want to abolish the stereotypes that are out there about individuals who are Atheist, Agnostic, or who are not afflicted with the Church.

I believe this is a good example of how Juniata, or more importantly Juniata students, try to incorporate as many different people in to the Juniata community as possible.

Traveling Home for the Holidays

When I first arrived at Juniata, I felt like everyone around me was from Pennsylvania. Everyone I talked to would say, “Oh yeah, I’m from Altoona,” or, “I live outside of Philly,” or some variation of this. However, I am not one of those people. I’m from Boston, which is a very long drive from Juniata College. When planning my fall, Thanksgiving and winter breaks, I was worried I wouldn’t find a way to get to the airport, or people that weren’t driving home to the same areas I was headed. I was very pleasantly proved wrong.

Juniata has students from almost forty different states in the U.S. as well as over forty different countries. There are so many people who don’t live locally, who fly from University Park Airport in State College or Harrisburg International Airport, take a bus or drive home for the holidays. Juniata College allows freshman to have cars on campus, which has been very helpful for me so far. Although I do not have a car of my own, my roommate, who lives in Altoona, PA, has her own car. She, as well as many of the students here at Juniata, is incredibly generous when offering rides to places I need to go. It is also easy to find other students looking for ride or cab shares on your Juniata Class Facebook group.

One of the many student parking lots.

One of the many student parking lots.

If you don’t have friends with access to a car, don’t worry! Juniata offers a shuttle service during the week of breaks throughout the semester. For a low cost, the school will shuttle you to or from campus to some of the neighboring airports in State College and Harrisburg, as well as different bus and train stations in those areas. They are easy to sign up for, and are offered at different times throughout the day to work with everyone’s schedules.

Many people may worry about going to a small school in a small town, but Juniata works to make travel accessible to all students and to make the town of Huntingdon seem not so small!

This Week at Juniata 14

National Council of Teaching English (NCTE) Conference

The back of the Writing Centaur T-shirt

The back of the Writing Centaur T-shirt

I hear a lot of Juniata College students mentioning conferences. I assumed they were mostly for different science fields, but I was wrong. From November 20 to November 22, I attended the National Council of Teachers of English conference in National Harbor, Maryland with my fellow Writing Center tutors. Eight other Writing Center tutors and I piled into a van at 8:30 Thursday morning and we set off for the conference with Professor Peters. On Thursday, we registered for the conference and began to attend presentations. On the first day, I attended a panel on linking young adult literature and nonfiction. The panel was all about making connections between books that discuss real issues that young people deal with on a daily basis. One of the coolest aspects of the conference is that the panels were quite often authors who were talking about their own books, not professors or teachers. That night, the entire group went to see Sonia Nazario speak. She was incredible. In order to write her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Enrique’s Journey, she took the same train-hopping route through Central America and Mexico that many young people also traveled. I am excited to read her book when I get some time over break.

Meeting Cinda Williams Chima

Meeting Cinda Williams Chima

Friday was another day full of panels. However, Friday was also the day that the book floor opened. Imagine a large convention center right outside of Washington, D.C. full of English teachers. Now imagine a whole ballroom full of booths run by different publishing companies. Oh, and just a minor detail: most of the books and items were free. People were walking around with rolling luggage in order to hold all the books, bags, pens, posters, and everything else that was given away on the book floor. “Wouldn’t they run out?” you ask. No. The books are refilled every hour because every hour each publishing company has different authors signing books. Not only are many of these books free, but they’re also signed. I’m a huge fan of Cinda Williams Chima, and I was able to meet and get a picture with her on Saturday. On top of that, I took about twenty signed books home with me over Thanksgiving Break. The book floor was pretty awesome.

As I mentioned, I met one of my favorite authors on Saturday. However, I also saw Cory Doctorow speak. I am reading Little Brother in my young adult literature course, so it was great to see him talk about some of the issues that he discusses in his book. Also, after his presentation when he was signing books, we bonded a bit over the struggle of being called the wrong name. As a “Cody,” I often get called “Cory.” He has the opposite problem.

In addition to all the actual conference events, it was also a good time to bond with my colleagues in the Writing Center. Making coffee runs across the city before a panel, playing games in the hotel rooms, and hanging out for three days was a great team-building experience. Plus, a bunch of people wanted our Writing Centaur T-shirts. The conference was an awesome experience and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to go.

Writing Centaurs preparing to head back to Juniata

Writing Centaurs preparing to head back to Juniata

International Week – Horses of God

International Week Schedule

International Week Schedule

Even though Juniata College is a very small campus there always seems like there is something going on. This week was International week. One of the events was a movie called the Horse of God about Morocco. I was excited to go to this movie because over the summer I went to The Gambia. Before arriving in that country we had a twelve hour layover in Morocco where we were able to go out and explore Casablanca. I liked the movie a lot; at the beginning they showed the kids running across the highway that had a white wall behind it, and I remembered that highway. We passed it on our way into the city from the airport. There is something simple to the white washed walls of the compound the people live in and the metal doors, and the sand. It seems to be a symbol of poverty in this region that is very much like the poverty we see in The Gambia.

Wall in Casablanca

Wall in Casablanca

At the beginning of the movie it shows the kids and their struggle. You don’t see these kids going to school, you see them rummaging in the garbage hemp for things to sell. You see the formation of the criminal activity that ultimately takes over their lives. What else is there to do to pull yourself out of poverty?

It is quite noticeable from an early point on that honesty is not something that is valued in this society. There a crooked cops, and a crooked law system. The mother also states that she prefers the money, instead of the honest living Tarek was trying to make. In a society of criminal deeds are the only profitable means of providing a life for yourself, that thread of honesty is non-existent.

I like how the eldest brother looked for that honesty in his younger brother. Until the very end of the movie, he was trying to keep his brother honest. To keep him from the life that he had to lead to feed the family. I personally don’t think either brother thought that this religious sect, who gave them something to strive for, would turn into their undoing.

It is easy to brainwash a soul that has already been broken – a soul that has hit rock bottom. In this poverty, you see a lot of terrible things, but they are not terrible to you – they are the everyday. The Muslim Brotherhood got these boys to believe in a paradise, somewhere where they would be reworded for their good deeds, where their hopeless plight of poverty and life would be erased and they would be in a sense reborn. The Muslim Brotherhood made them dream, and they gave them something to live for. What did they have to live for in the slums? Where was their legacy? It was nowhere. The Brotherhood gave them a purpose, and the belief that there is something so much better than the lives they live. The Muslim Brotherhood made them dream, those dreams lead to the deaths of 54 people including 12 suicide bombers. It wasn’t about religion anymore, religion was just a catalyst of place where the poverty would end, where they would stop being nobodies. Where they would finally be someone worth looking up to – they wanted to be martyrs.

Street vendors in Casablanca

Street vendors in Casablanca

While in The Gambia, or even in that short time in Morocco, I didn’t see terrorism or the religious sec. However, there was always that underlying theme of poverty, and the struggle to do anything to stay alive. Being able to travel abroad to this part of the world allowed me to view this movie very differently than someone who did not have this study abroad experience, because while in The Gambia and in Morocco, I saw the struggle of people and how hard it was for them to make a living and survive in these countries. My study aboard experience made me see that this wasn’t just a movie, there are people on the other side of the world that are going through this struggle right now. Even though I did not see any terrorism I can better understand how this brainwashing and religious ideology could appeal to these people.

This Week at Juniata Week 13

The International Fashion & Food Show

After being inspired by a fundraiser held at Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), I conceived the idea of having an International Fashion & Food Show at Juniata College to help raise money for students traveling on the January 2015 Cultural Learning Tour to the Dominican Republic. This event was sponsored by my club, Amigos de Guanin, and also by Nourish International and the International Cooking Club.

I originally wanted to do this event with only my club, but I quickly realized that I would need expertise from other areas, especially if we wanted to make food at our event, since I’m not very skilled in the kitchen. The other club presidents and I started planning the event in September and met every Monday evening for an hour. After two months of planning, we finally held our event on Saturday, Nov. 22 in Baker Refectory.

Since I was an MC for the night, I decided to wear a beautiful multi-colored sari from India that was left in the Unity House by a previous Juniata student.

Since I was an MC for the night, I decided to wear a beautiful multi-colored sari from India that was left in the Unity House by a previous Juniata student.

The collaboration for the International Fashion & Food Show is what amazed me the most. We advertised in the daily announcements that we would be needing models, and we quickly found over 20 people who were interested in helping us represent 15 countries from around the world. Many of the models also prepared a dish from the country that they were representing. In addition, several clubs on campus, such as the Korean and Japanese clubs, prepared massive amounts of food!

With so many different components, you may be wondering how we even made a profit. And to be honest, we wouldn’t have made a profit at all if it weren’t for the $1,380 allocation from Student Government. This allocation covered all expenses, so all money that we raised from ticket sales was considered to be profit.

Not only was this event a huge success in the fact that we raised close to $1,200 that would be split among the three clubs, but also because I was able to meet and work closely with some truly incredible people from around the world.

The best part is that I didn’t even have to spend thousands of dollars traveling the globe to find them! Juniata College has this uncanny ability to bring people together, no matter what their cultural backgrounds might be, and for this, I am truly grateful!

Four of our models rambunctiously represented Germany by dancing onto the runway!

Four of our models rambunctiously represented Germany by dancing onto the runway!

Underrated Holiday

Thanksgiving Contest - What Are You Thankful For?

Thanksgiving seems like it is the most underrated holiday because it’s between Halloween and Christmas. In which most cases Christmas trumps any other holiday, but my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. The reason Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday is because it solely concentrates on spending time with those you care about. There aren’t any presents or costumes or anything to disrupt its purpose. It’s about giving thanks and recognizing all that you have in your life as well as appreciating the people you have in your life. For me it’s hard to always be away from my family at this time since our break is too short and expensive for me to go home to my family in Florida, but I have great friends with caring families that willingly take me in and treat me as a member of their own family.

There are many things to be grateful for, but I am grateful for the love that I receive from all the people I care about. The joy of knowing that someone will always be there and no matter how long it has been or the distance that separates you, nothing changes. A bond made from memories that grow with time to fortify a lasting friendship that can’t be broken. To have that type of love from more than just family is a great experience and when you grow so much with a close friend they become family. I am so grateful to have people in my life that may not be blood to me but are still family and I cherish them for all that they do for me.

Needless to say this has been the most interesting Thanksgiving that I have had away from home. I learned how to shoot a gun so I was able to conquer my fear and dislike of them. Being with a family with a lot of energy and generosity was heart-warming. It is also fun to hear the stories from different generations and how things have changed. We may not realize how much we take for granted the things we have and being able to spend time with great friends and their families makes me humble. It makes me sit back and soak it all in as to how much I have in my life compared to others. Material things can’t beat time with those you care about, nor can it bring the same joy because memories can be made and never replaced.

So to those reading this, enjoy the time you have and show or tell the people you care about just how much they matter to you. Cherish what you have because there are people out there that aren’t so blessed to have all of what you do. I make sure that I express the love and appreciation I have for my friends and family because they are too important to go without knowing just how much they mean to me.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Gooble Gobble!


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