About Erin Straza

Erin Straza (Associate Editor) is a freelance writer, editor, and marketing communications consultant, helping organizations tell their stories in authentic and compelling ways. After a stint in corporate marketing while earning her MBA, Erin taught marketing communications at Illinois Wesleyan and Illinois State. She is crafting her first book, writing from the Illinois flatlands where she lives with her husband, Mike. Find more from Erin at her blog Filling My Patch of Sky and on Twitter @ErinStraza.
E-mail: erin [at] FillingMyPatchOfSky [dot] com
Blog: Filling My Patch of Sky
Twitter: @ErinStraza

What They Want Us to Believe: Our Takes on the Most Noteworthy Super Bowl Commercials

Every year, we watch the Super Bowl for the football, talking through the whole thing, yelling at the television, marveling audibly at the half-time spectacle, and then shushing one another to a hushed silence during the commercials. It’s a time that, for better or worse, both reflects and influences the attitude and mood of the general public. It takes our culture’s temperature, and it writes a prescription for what ails us. Here, have some Taco Bell and call us in the morning. Drive this car an … [Read more...]

Flowers in the Attic and the Allure of the Dark

As a preteen girl, my reading diet was rather heavy on empty calories found in glossy teen-romance books. The Sweet Valley High series was a mainstay, the storylines giving shape to the hope and angst I felt but was too young to name for myself. I liked that troubles always worked out in the end and that the girl always got the guy. These were simple, easy reads, depicting how I wished my life would go. I read them until one fateful day, when my quick-witted aunt grabbed a copy to see what I was … [Read more...]

Don’t Close Your Wallet Yet: It’s Giving Tuesday

Scooch over, Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. There’s a fourth holiday in the mix, making our fall U.S. Holiday trio a newly formed quartet.It’s called Giving Tuesday. In its second year, Giving Tuesday has already gained a remarkable following. Here’s how the movement is explained on its Web site: “We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. This year help us create #GivingTuesday. A new day for giving back. On Tuesday December 3, 2013, global chari … [Read more...]

Celebrating C. S. Lewis: ‘Till We Have Faces’

Editor’s Note: November 22, 2013, will mark the fiftieth anniversary of C. S. Lewis’s death. On that day, he will be given a place in Westminster Abbey’s renowned Poet’s Corner. In commemoration of this event, all this week Christ and Pop Culture contributors will be writing about the works by C. S. Lewis that have been most personally significant to them.The first time I read C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, I approached it all wrong. I thought I was picking up another take on Narnia, with … [Read more...]

The Gospel According to Inigo Montoya (aka Mandy Patinkin)

Sometime in my adulthood, I finally watched The Princess Bride. I watched it reluctantly, for after so many years of hearing so many boast of its wonders, I had come to believe it wasn't possible for a movie to be that wonderful. It took just one viewing for me to change my opinion.Over the years, it has remained a cult classic. Its starring cast has carved out permanents spots in many a heart. And the scripting? So clever, we’re still quoting lines some 25 years later. One of the most i … [Read more...]

The Halloween Trifecta: Kids, Sugar, and Fear

Let me just get it out here at the start: I don’t celebrate Halloween.Now, let me explain. There are lots of things associated with Halloween that I really like. I like costumes. I like kids. I love candy. But there are other things associated with Halloween that I’m not keen on—things like gigantic, gaudy, blow-up lawn ornaments and freaky movie previews that interrupt my otherwise tranquil TV viewing.Even as a kid I wasn't a fan of Halloween—which says a lot because I’m a big fan of fre … [Read more...]

Musicians from Warring Nations Gives Us a Picture of Peace

A musician I am not, but if you break out the cello, I can scarcely breathe for the beauty of it. Obviously, cellist Yo-Yo Ma is a favorite. So this NPR article—“A Yo-Yo Ma Project Brings Together Musicians from Warring Nations”—caught my eye. Its author, Elizabeth Segran, details Ma’s vision for music as the basis for intercultural understanding through his Silk Road Ensemble organization: “Bringing together the Galician bagpipe, the Chinese pipa, the Japanese shakuhachi, the Persian kamancheh, … [Read more...]

Finding the Heart of God in a Bullying Prevention Campaign

Looking back on my growing up years, I’d say the tweens were the worst. Late elementary school and into middle school were marked with plenty of drama. Friendships felt tenuous as girls often bonded over the common enemy of the week. Romantic interests were fleeting at best. Staying steady in this tumultuous environment was impossible. In my immaturity, I grasped at whatever straws of security I could get my hands on. Sadly, those straws included adding my laughter when my circle found someone t … [Read more...]

Anxiety Is a Monster, and It Looks Like This

One of the worst aspects of mental illness is its invisibility. With no obvious wound or bandage, we are left only with various and oftentimes confusing symptoms to identify and label. One artist is giving shape to these invisible conditions, hoping that his artistic renderings will objectify these powerful illnesses in ways that help those who suffer from them. Jennifer Miller reports on Toby Allen’s project in an article for Co.CREATE, explaining: “In his new watercolor collection, Real Mon … [Read more...]

How to Enjoy Jen Hatmaker’s Upcoming Reality Show

When I heard the news last week that Christian author Jen Hatmaker would be the subject of a new HGTV reality show, I was conflicted.Certainly, I am curious how Jen and her family will translate through reality TV. From what I've read from Jen’s blog and her social media commentary, she and her family have plenty of humor and clumsy situations to offer. I mean, it’s a rare gal who goes commando on the Today show and later admits it. But that’s part of her charm—she shares what the typical per … [Read more...]