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I have a library of thousands of books at home, and have approximately 30 books by my bedside now.
This year, the National MS Society's Books for a Better Life Awards will celebrate their 20th anniversary, and as part of that celebration, I am honored to report that they will be inducting me into their Hall of Fame.
Books for a Better Life is a publishing industry event that celebrates the best in self-improvement books, and it has helped to raise millions of dollars for a very important cause: finding treatments and a cure for multiple sclerosis.
In partnership with the National MS Society and Books for a Better Life Awards, Rodale Books is asking our colleagues, friends, and partners to help us raise awareness.
To participate, we have one simple request: Head over to your favorite social media platform and share the name (or image!) of a book that has changed your life in ways big or small. If you tell stories, whether as a writer of books, an essayist, a blogger, a presenter, or even just as someone entertaining friends at your local pub, coffee shop, or living room, you should have at least a passing knowledge of the elements of good storytelling.
As I mentioned earlier, the theory of the monomyth is a storytelling convention, derived from observations of millennia of storytelling, from the Epic of Gilgamesh (which includes a story similar to Deucalion’s Flood and Noah and the ark) to Gone With the Wind. I stumbled across a copy of Save the Cat in an Ottawa bookstore back in the summer of 2011.
Save the Cat gets its name from one of one of the first things you need to do in its formula: make the audience sympathetic to the main character.
In the Kingdom of Arendelle, Anna (voice, Kristen Bell) and her older sister Elsa (voice, Idina Menzel) play together, living a life with a happy childhood. Strands of Anna’s hair are turned white, and their parents rush her to a group of mountain trolls. Anna and Elsa grow up in the same household, yet totally separated from each other in an effort to protect Anna. Theme Stated (happens during the Set-up) – What your story is about; the message, the truth. As the troll elder heals Anna, he tells the king and queen that they are lucky the magic did not hit her heart. Debate – But change is scary and for a moment, or a brief number of moments, the main character doubts the journey they must take. As the castle walls fill with guests, both girls wonder what this will mean for them and for their future. Anna is eager to meet “the one” to share her life with, while Elsa is afraid of what might happen if she cannot control her powers. Elsa is able to control her abilities when she takes off her gloves at the ceremony, but the day is not over yet.
Break Into Two (Choosing Act Two) – The main character makes a choice and the journey begins. While Anna attempts to cope with the freezing cold, her horse runs off, and she stumbles upon a small trading post and enters it, where she also meets Kristoff (voice, Jonathan Groff), who sells ice for a living.
At the trading post, Anna is able to find some winter clothes, but Kristoff has an argument with the owner and is thrown out. Meanwhile, Elsa has found refuge and has used her powers — for the first time without repercussions — to create a magnificent ice palace. It is the only time she has ever felt truly free and uninhibited. Midpoint – Dependent upon the story, this moment is when everything is “great” or everything is “awful”.
Elsa kicks Anna and Kristoff out of her ice palace, creating a huge ice creature to chase them off. The elder troll comes forward and says that there is nothing he can do to heal Anna; only an act of true love can heal a frozen heart. Meanwhile, Hans and his band of men have arrived at Elsa’s ice palace, only to confront the snow creature and fight it. Kristoff arrives at the castle gates, leaving Anna in the care of her staff to bring her to Hans for a kiss.
Hans leaves Anna in a cold room to die, then informs the staff that Anna is dead, and lies as he declares that they had said their marriage vows.
Anna and Olaf attempt to make it out of the castle to meet Kristoff, who is racing toward Arendelle and the swirling vortex of snow and ice that envelops it. Finale – This time around, the main character incorporates the Theme – the nugget of truth that now makes sense to them – into their fight for the goal because they have experience from the A Story and context from the B Story.
Anna and Olaf find a way out of the castle and step onto the icy fjord, her heart freezing more and more by the minute.
Elsa sees what her powers have wrought and despairs, realizing the sacrifice Anna made for her.


As the kingdom returns back to normal, Elsa sees her powers as a beautiful gift, not as a curse.
Love has conquered all; it has healed a frozen heart and has reunited the two sisters once again. If you’d like to see more examples of the Save the Cat structure applied to movies, MediaJuice put together a couple of ten-minute videos. If you find working on a desktop or even a laptop too confining, there’s even an iPhone version of Save the Cat, which sells for $20. As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below.
I'm currently reading Rising Strong, by Brene Brown, and finding answers to so many questions--questions I've had just recently. Now, I feel a bit young to get an award like this, and as Lin-Manuel Miranda sings in Hamilton, "There's a million things I haven't done." But Rodale Books as a whole deserves this award because we only publish books that make life better--and have for the past 70 years!
As the title lingers on the screen, it quickly fades to an image from the perspective of under the ice as men saw through it. The troll elder is able to save Anna just in time, but he cautions the king and queen to shield Anna from Elsa’s powers to prevent another accident. Anna can’t understand why her sister won’t play with her anymore, coming to her door and continually pleading with her to build a snowman like they used to. It is the telegram, the act of catching your loved-one cheating, allowing a monster onboard the ship, meeting the true love of your life, etc. The Duke of Weselton arrives and is eager to trade with Arendelle, suspicious about why the kingdom’s walls have been closed for so long.
After the ceremony, she and Anna speak to each other for the first time in years, beginning to rekindle their love. She must leave her familiar life of safety and isolation and step out into the upside-down world of the frozen outdoors. Kristoff questions her future marriage to Hans, but they are soon attacked by a pack of wolves.
The main character either gets everything they think they want (“great”) or doesn’t get what they think they want at all (“awful”). She finds Elsa inside and pleads with her to return, claiming that together, they can solve the problem.
Anna and Kristoff are pursued by it until they fall off the mountain to the snow drift below.
Anna realizes this must mean “true love’s first kiss” from Hans, and Kristoff races her back to Arendelle. The Duke of Weselton’s men storm the palace and attack Elsa, causing her to unleash the full brunt of her powers, almost killing them in the process. When Hans arrives and Anna tells him this, he reveals his true nature; he was merely using her to obtain the throne.
The moment that the main character realizes they’ve lost everything they gained, or everything they now have has no meaning.
Assuming the position of the throne, he charges Elsa with treason and sentences her to death. He muses about how much Kristoff helped her, and as he looks out the window into the distance, he sees Kristoff racing back toward Arendelle. As Kristoff races toward her, Hans finds Elsa alone on the ice, telling her that Anna has died as a result of her inability to control her powers.
It is at this moment that Anna begins to thaw; the act of true love had come from within, healing her frozen heart.
Hans is returned to his own land, and the Duke of Weselton is forever banished from Arendelle.
But I have struggled with the question of what book changed my life because every book I read changes my life. And that's another thing I love about books: I always seem to read just the right book at just the right time. As a student of myths and narratives from around the world, Campbell kept noticing a pattern appearing and re-appearing in stories, and extracted the theory of the Hero’s Journey from them. While Anna is a normal child, Elsa is anything but: she has been born with the power to create ice and snow from her hands, and she can manipulate it at will.
He alters the memories Anna has of Elsa’s powers, making her forget the uniqueness her sister possesses.


As they grow in age, their father cautions Elsa to wear gloves to prevent her powers from manifesting; they must remain a secret from everyone. He then addresses Elsa, saying that her powers can be something of great beauty, but she must learn to control them, and that fear will be her greatest enemy. For Anna, this is a joyous occasion, as she will have the opportunity to interact with the world outside. While Elsa is still apprehensive about any social interaction, Anna meets a young prince named Hans, the youngest of 13 brothers. She flees as Anna watches in shock, their world turning into an icy wasteland in a matter of minutes. Further on, they encounter a jovial talking snowman, Olaf (voice, Josh Gad), who is eerily similar to one that Anna remembers Elsa making in their childhood.
Elsa refuses, relishing her freedom, but Anna tells her that her actions have caused a winter condition that only Elsa can reverse. When Kristoff realizes that Anna’s hair is turning white from the blast to her heart, he races her to the only ones he knows who can help: the trolls that raised him, the same ones who had saved Anna once before, to which he was a witness. During the battle, she is knocked out and awakens in a prison cell back at the castle, her hands manacled by iron.
Mourning the loss of what has “died” – the dream, the goal, the mentor character, the love of your life, etc. Anna then realizes that it is Kristoff, not Hans, who can give her “true love’s first kiss” and save her. Anna sees Kristoff getting closer, but then spies Hans raise a sword from behind Elsa, ready to kill. Digging down deep, Anna leaps in front of the sword, freezing into solid ice right as Hans slices downward, his sword shattering upon impact. Elsa realizes that love conquers fear, and she soon embraces this as a way to balance her abilities.
Elsa vows to Anna that they will never close the gates of the kingdom again and proceeds to use her abilities to inspire awe in the townsfolk, creating a winter wonderland in the palace courtyard.
There’s strong pressure to play it safe and stick with what works, and while Save the Cat has been proven to work. From the oldest books ever written, such as The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible, to the first novel, Tale of Gengi, I've learned that books last. It was a fascinating read, because it described just about every Hollywood movie I’d recently seen or friends had been raving about.
The girls play in a giant room in the castle, with Elsa creating huge mounds of snow for Anna to slide down and hop across.
This bit of foreshadowing will be the focus of the story: Anna will need to learn what it truly means to love, and Elsa will be the key to all of this.
Will the subjects of the kingdom accept her or see her as a monster if something goes wrong?
As the day passes, Anna falls more and more in love with him, ultimately accepting his proposal of marriage.
The Duke of Weselton wants to hunt her down, accusing her of sorcery and of being a monster, but Anna has another plan.
Olaf joins them, singing about how he desires to see summer weather, not knowing what this would entail for him. The stakes have been raised, and only get higher when Elsa begs her sister to leave, accidentally hitting her in the heart with an icy blast. They continue to giggle and play until Elsa starts to lose some control of her abilities, and she accidentally hits Anna in the head with her powers, knocking her unconscious. They hint at the theme, singing that sometimes people do things out of fear that they would not otherwise do, and that love will help show them the way.
Books open up the universe to everyone, even if you just stay right on your couch or bed (which, by the way, is one of my favorite places in the world).
He leads them to Elsa’s ice palace, while back at the kingdom, Anna’s horse returns without her, and Hans recruits some men to go and confront the queen. Anna doesn’t realize it at first, but if she doesn’t find help soon, her heart will freeze, killing her.



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