My Favorite Things with Kendra Merritt

They might not be raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but that doesn’t mean that we love them any less. Welcome back to My Favorite Things, the weekly column where we grab someone in speculative circles to gab about the greatest in geek. This week we sit down with our resident book reviewer Kendra Merritt. What does she love when she’s not reading like a fiend? Spoiler alert: writing deadlines, Sailor Moon reboots, paper bag princesses, fairy tales as a woven art form, nerdy music, and Girls’ Gaming Nights! Curious? Read on for more!


It’s November, which means it’s National Novel Writing Month! And it’s one of my very favorite things. I have done Nanowrimo every year for ten years now, ever since a friend told me it existed. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Which averages out to 1667 words a day. And it doesn’t have to be speculative; it can be whatever you want. This year I’m bending the rules a little to do a series of short stories.

Yes, November is kind of an awkward month for it with all the holidays, but I look forward to the chaos all year. Out of the ten years I’ve participated, I’ve won nine of them. And the one I bombed I blame on pregnancy and its related hurdles. Nanowrimo just works for me. Probably because a lot of my self-worth is tied up in output which means 50,000 words and a first draft of a manuscript feel really good. I love first drafts. They’re so shiny and full of hope and promise and fear, and I find that feeling of half-exhilaration and half-panic highly motivating.

I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but hard deadlines and clear goals get me out of bed in the morning. And if someone tells me “there’s this challenge, it’s really hard and not everyone wins,” you can bet I’m going to work my butt off to be one of the winners. I started nine days late the first year I did it and still finished on time. I’ve spent this October plotting, and updating my info on the site, and generally waiting around until Nov. 1 when I can officially start producing words. Anyone else participating?

Y’all know I’m nerdy, right? That’s not news anymore? Okay, then I’ll share a secret. Every day that I didn’t have band practice in high school I would rush home and shut myself in my parents’ room to watch Sailor Moon. It was super cheesy, and I was a little embarrassed at the time by how much I loved it, even going so far as to beg my mom to record it for me when I couldn’t get home in time then re-watching that single episode over and over. As an adult who doesn’t care what other people say (theoretically), I picked up the original manga and fell in love with the artwork and storyline. But I can trace my love of anime back to that cheesy TV show.

So, I had some mixed feelings when I heard about Sailor Moon Crystal, a reboot of the Sailor Moon anime from my childhood. Since it’s showing up on my favorites list you can probably guess I was more than pleasantly surprised. Sailor Moon Crystal is better than just a reboot. It’s a return to the heart and soul of Naoko Takeuchi’s shojo sensation. The new show follows the original manga much closer in both artwork and storyline and since I felt like that’s where the old one really lacked, I am totally down with the changes. I’ve been binge-watching the three seasons currently available, and I really hope they continue the series to complete the story from the manga. My two-year-old will even sit and watch it with me, although she still prefers books.

And just like me she can’t choose a favorite. I’ve really been trying to narrow it down, but… oh well. We’ll just say one of my favorite things right now is sci/fi and fantasy picture books. It seems like most children’s books are fantasy with their talking animals and sentient steam engines, but I really love the ones that take traditional speculative fiction tropes and make them accessible to a toddler. The most dog-eared right now are Uni the Unicorn, which is about a unicorn who believes little girls are real, and The Paper Bag Princess, a brilliant story about heroism and girl power, and Zombie in Love, which follows Mortimer as he tries to find a date after death. It may seem like a small thing, but I love sharing all things fantasy with her. Hence the next thing on the list…

This favorite is probably a little self-congratulatory, but I’ve been working on it for two and a half years, and it’s finally done, and it really is one of my favorite things. I am passionate about fairytales in all their forms, from Disney princesses to Mercedes Lackey’s Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series to some of the more obscure stories collected by the Grimm brothers. I especially love seeing (and using) fairytales in unexpected media.

So, when my daughter was born I started making her a fairytale quilt, and the idea just got bigger and bigger until now — two and a half years later — it’s done with twenty-three individual fairytales represented along with several fantastical creatures that don’t necessarily have their own story (100 points to anyone who can name them all). It’s probably not an exaggeration to say I love this thing more than she does at the moment, most likely because I’ve spent all this time looking forward to sharing it with her and pointing out all the elves and fairies, telling her their stories and how they’re important. Of course, she’s two, so she just likes that there are buttons on Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house. We’ll have to work on finer points of appreciation later I guess.

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Speaking of nerdiness leaking into all parts of life, did you know nerdy music is a thing? I didn’t until my husband and I heard Ludo play Love Me Dead on Jay Leno back in 2008. We looked at each other and said, “How do we not already love this band?” and now they’re our favorite go-to soundtrack for road trips and those too-quiet parts of life. And it’s not just because they sing about love in space, zombie pirates, and walking skeletons. They’re also fantastic musicians with songs I can sing along to (that’s my first criteria for loving any kind of music). They actually manage to make jokes with musical theory.

I’ve been to exactly two concerts in my life. One was at a church and barely counts. The other was Ludo. I’ve never had so much fun singing in public before. It helped to be surrounded by a hundred other people who knew all the words too.

My favorite album is a rock opera called Broken Bride, which tells the story of a man who lost his wife in a car accident. He builds a time machine in order to go back and save her and ends up traveling all through the world’s history, from dinosaurs to the apocalypse. It combines the very best talents of Ludo, their humor and their penchant for poignancy. I don’t think they have any plans to make more music, but I really hope I’m wrong because four albums only get us through 200 miles of southwestern Colorado.

And last but not least, my favorite thing is Monday night girls’ night on Guild Wars 2. I’m not really a social gamer. I prefer to sit and slay dragons or explore the galaxy by my nerdy self. Multiplayer options are kind of terrifying because I might actually have to interact with real people. And let’s be honest, I really don’t need any more games in my life since I’m currently in the middle of playthroughs of Skyrim, Mass Effect, and Fallout 4, and I’m only about a quarter of the way done with my Minecraft city. But when a few of my close friends started playing Guild Wars 2 a few years ago, those excuses didn’t really work anymore.

It’s an MMORPG with some stunning graphics and an immense ever-changing world. The learning curve is a little steep — I’ve been playing for four years now, and there are still entire maps and game types I haven’t even touched. But I love the way ArenaNet integrates story and worldbuilding into gameplay and how those two are constantly changing. There’s always some new story to play or map to explore whether you’re running solo or with a group.

I may not have started as a social gamer but I’m slowly learning how to be one. A bunch of friends moved out of town at the same time, and I wanted to have some regular correspondence with my sisters, so I suggested starting a regular Guild Wars girls’ night and now Monday night is one of my favorite things in the world. I get to hang out with friends, complain about outfit options, and slaughter semi-innocent monsters. What more can a girl ask for?

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Books have been Kendra Merritt’s escape for as long as she can remember.  She used to hide fantasy novels behind her government textbook in high school, and she wrote most of her first novel during a semester of college algebra.

Older and wiser now (but just as nerdy) Kendra writes retellings of fairytales with main characters who have disabilities. If she isn’t writing, she’s reading, and if she isn’t reading, she’s playing video games.

Kendra lives in Denver with her very tall husband, their book-loving progeny, and a lazy black monster masquerading as a service dog.

5 Comments

  • Shara White November 13, 2017 at 7:07 am

    Okay, so that quilt is AMAZING, and I’m loving that Girls Game Night. What a fantastic thing to do, and what a great way to stay in touch with all of your friends!

    Reply
    • Betsy Whitt November 13, 2017 at 7:31 am

      What’s REALLY amazing about that quilt is that Kendra designed every bit of it AND made it. I don’t think any part of it is from an outside pattern. She’s totally right to be proud of it–and should probably enter it in a quilt show or two and take in some winning money for that bad boy.

      And yes, girls’ gaming night is awesome. I really do think it’s saved all of our sanity more than once this past year….

      Reply
  • Teresa November 13, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    I have to admit I cried a bit when I saw that finished quilt. It is a amazing, a true work of art, done as a work of abiding love for her little princess. I’m proud that I get to call you my daughter-in-love. Nerds Rule

    Reply
  • Kelly McCarty November 14, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    That quilt is amazing. My late grandmother was a seamstress and I’ve always wanted to learn to quilt but I’m really not artistic. I agree with Betsy–you should definitely enter that quilt into contests.

    Reply
  • Weasel of Doom November 15, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Quilt of Amazing Awesomeness For The Win!

    Reply

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