Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Bird by Bird and Refuelling

First off, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I’d rather curl up with a good piece of fiction any day than a book that dissects the writing process, so I expected I’d need to force myself to read it. Not at all.

Bird by Bird provides an honest and often humorous look at writing. Anne Lamott spends much of the book stripping away the illusion that there’s anything remotely glamorous about the life of a writer, whether published or not. She’s self-deprecating and funny and open, even while discussing some of the darker issues involved with writing and life in general. She doesn’t get into a lot of technical advice. Instead, she focuses on a realistic approach to various aspects of writing.

There are many, many things I could share about this book, like how it literally made me cackle numerous times, or how practical it is, but I’ll keep it to a minimum by focusing on the bit that affected me most.

Anne Lamott addresses writer’s block in the following hilarious, yet profound way:

“The word block suggests that you are constipated or stuck, when the truth is that you’re empty.” (p. 178)

This was a HUGE revelation for me, the equivalent of a much needed smack in the head. Being disciplined about writing certainly involves sacrifice, but there comes a point when you could be giving up too much, both personally and in terms of fuel for writing. Your job as a writer is to pour your heart and soul into the stories you write, but how can you do that when you’re emotionally drained and your well of experience has gone dry?

The author’s advice is to accept that you aren’t in a productive or creative period and use that time to fill up again. She encourages you to live like you’re dying, so that your time is fuller. She recommends participating in ordinary life, because that will refill you with “observations, flavors, ideas, visions, memories…” (p. 179). Taking the time to enjoy simple things and being truly present in those moments is not only healthy, but necessary for the creative process.

Sometimes I need to just crawl up out of that deep dark writing pit and enjoy taking part in normal life for a while—not just to preserve my sanity, but for the good of whatever writing project I’m working on. I’m no good to myself, anyone else, or my writing if I let myself run on empty. Feeding my soul will nourish my imagination which will enable me to write.

Anybody else have any revelations while reading Bird by Bird or another craft book?

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Happy Family Literacy Day!

January 27th is Family Literacy Day in Canada. It’s a day meant to encourage families to learn together. ABC Life Literacy Canada is the organization responsible for promoting the event and their mission statement is this:

We envision a Canada where everyone has the literacy skills they need to live a fully engaged life.

Sounds like a worthy goal to me!

The theme for this year is “Fifteen Minutes of Fun.” Families are encouraged to spend at least fifteen minutes a day on reading skills, whether it’s through books, games, songs, poetry, riddles, or anything else that puts an emphasis on learning language.  Our family is already very committed to learning together, and our life pretty much revolves around books, books, and more books, so for us this is a cinch.

In the spirit of the day, we read another chapter of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. My son is currently doing a novel study on it and we’ve had some great discussions on the subject matter. In my family, milestones are marked by books, and I’ve been waiting for this one for a long while now.

And what would a celebration of literacy be without some Shel Silverstein to liven things up a bit? We’ve long been fans of Shel’s zany poetry, and this is the fourth of his books we’ve read. His poems range from incredibly clever to just plain goofy, and when we start to read a few, we can never stop. We always say, “Okay, just one more,” until the book is accidentally finished.

We also played Boggle and a Scrabble card game. I love word games, so this was a fun way to cap off our literacy activities. Oh, and there were pizza Pringles and licorice. Those have nothing to do with language, but there must be snacks for any celebration, no matter how small.

I'd actually forgotten until this afternoon that it was Family Literacy Day, so there wasn't time to get overly creative. Next year I’d like to put more prep into this special day and come up with some better ideas for how to spend it. Something a little more along the lines of one of our Harry Potter or Narnia movie nights, complete with themed snacks, costumes, music, and other bookish stuff.

Have you ever participated in any literary holidays or events to promote reading?

Friday, 25 January 2013


Today I took a leap. Two leaps actually.

Leap #1:

I entered the Blind Speed Dating contest over at Cupid’s Literary Connection. Eek! The last time I competed in a writing contest I was in grade six. I wrote a very flowery poem about a unicorn and decorated it with shiny stickers. That was quite a while ago (longer than I care to admit), so this felt like kind of a big deal to me. I’d been lurking over there, perusing the submissions and trying to work up the courage to take a stab at it when someone else I know (gee, I wonder who?) also decided to give it a go. I figure, what do I have to lose? Ten dollars and my dignity. I can manage that.

Leap #2:

I signed up for an online writing class at The Art of the Query, taught by Bree Ogden. I’m super excited about it, but also really nervous. Nothing like posting a pitch for your story and having a bunch of total strangers dissect it. I’m sure they’ll all be very helpful, and I can’t wait to hear what wisdom Bree has to impart about the elusive perfect query.

So both leaps could result in face plants, or when all's said and done, I could be jumping for joy. Either way, I figure half the reward is in the trying. :)

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

RTW: Good for a Laugh

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a writing-or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This week’s question:

Good for a laugh: Who is your favorite comedian or funny book and/or movie?

To answer this, I need to go waaaaaay back to the 1980s (an entire decade that was good for a laugh), when I first discovered Gordon Korman's books. I remember reading about Bruno and Boots’s shenanigans in This Can’t be Happening at MacDonald Hall: how I laughed myself silly, how amazed I was that Gordon was only twelve years old when he wrote it, and most of all, how much that book made me want to be an author too.

Then there was the afternoon I read I Want to Go Home. I laughed so hard over Rudy Miller’s attempts to escape Camp Algonkian Island, my sister and brother came running into my room demanding to know what on earth was funny enough to practically send me into convulsions. Bugs Potter Live at Nickaninny had a similar effect, both in reducing me to giggles and on my early attempts at writing.

Back then, I thought Gordon Korman was hysterical and brilliant, and I still do. All these years later, I get to read his books to my son, and they’re just as funny as they were then, only now I have the added joy of listening to my son’s laughter, which makes it even better.

These days, I don’t read or watch a lot of straight up comedy, but most of my favourite stories, whether on the page or the screen, contain an element of humour. I think humour is a vital ingredient in storytelling. It can help keep a story balanced.  It can diffuse tension when necessary, and serve as an important tool in building character. Perhaps most importantly, it says, “This story doesn’t take itself too seriously.” I can recall plenty of times when I was willing to forgive the flaws in a book or show simply because the humour reminded me to suspend my disbelief and have a good time with it. For these reasons, I always try to work at least a bit of humour into what I’m writing.

So what books or movies crack you up? Do you try to work humour into your writing?

Friday, 18 January 2013

Blog Makeover

You might have noticed it's looking a little different in here. Okay, REALLY different. My previous blog layout was one that my sister helped me throw together back in the fall when I started blogging. At the time, I had no idea what I was doing. (Not entirely sure I do now, but let's pretend.) Now that I've been at it for a few months, I have a better idea what I want, and I've been feeling the need for a change. I'll blame that partly on the new year.

Seeing as my current WIP is sci-fi, not to mention I'm a fan of many sci-fi shows and books, I thought I'd go with a cleaner simpler design. Something that reflects my current mood and reminds me of my story. And it still had to be at least partly blue, because I love blue. I spent the last several days tinkering around with a new header, and this is what I came up with.

Despite the fact the new design frakked up many of my old posts, I'm quite happy with the result. :)

Monday, 14 January 2013

It Pays To Organize Your Books...Literally!

One of the chores at the top of my list for ages now has been organizing our overflowing book collection. No easy task seeing as we have books stuffed into every room of the house. I thought I’d start with my son’s room, since his shelves were jam-packed with books that he’d outgrown, a whole lot of Lego, and other miscellaneous junk. 

Before long, I found myself covered in dust, surrounded by more books than an Amazon warehouse, and wondering why on earth I’d been motivated to tackle this job in the first place. As I unloaded a whole slew of Hardy Boys volumes into the mystery section (Yes, I organized his books by genre), I noticed there were two copies of The Twisted Claw #18. One was vintage with the original cover art, and the other was a newer release with an updated cover. I asked him which one he wanted to keep, and he chose the older copy. Not a big surprise to me, seeing as he has an appreciation for that sort of thing.

Just in case the binding was better on the newer copy, I decided I should take a look before discarding it in the donation box. While flipping through the pages, something caught my eye. At first, I thought it was a bookmark, but on closer inspection I realized it was money—two fifty dollar bills and a twenty, stuffed into the middle!

All my son’s Hardy Boys books are used and collected from various places, so we have no idea where that particular volume came from. The bills were old, so they could have been stuck in there for eons now. Some poor kid probably put his Christmas money in his brand new Hardy Boys book from Aunt Mildred for safekeeping and then never read the darn thing.

The moral of the story? If you get a book for Christmas, make sure you read it! Oh, and take the time to organize your book collection, because you never know when $120 might turn up! Much more profitable than digging for pocket change in the couch cushions. :)

Friday, 11 January 2013

Nerd Alert

Like just about everyone else who writes these days, I have a playlist for my WIP. Mostly it includes songs by Snow Patrol, Florence and the Machine, and Imagine Dragons. Not a big surprise considering all three of these groups are fairly popular.

Usually, I listen to a couple songs to get me in the right frame of mind for writing a particular scene, but when I settle in to do the actual work, I prefer not to listen to anything with lyrics. I find it hard to sort out my own words when someone else’s are blaring in my ears.

That’s where the Tron soundtracks come in handy in all their electronic glory, especially Tron Legacy Reconfigured, the remix album. I fully admit to being a big Tron nerd.  Like probably worse than this:

And yes, I own a Tron shirt. Actually, it’s in the mail right now. (Yay!) Sheldon would approve. And so would Tron Guy:

If you don’t know who he is, I won’t waste your time explaining. Let’s just say he brings Tron obsession to a whole new level and was apparently banned from theatres. I’ll proudly wear a Tron t-shirt, but I draw the line at the helmet and glowing spandex.

Anyway, my WIP is sci-fi, so what better to listen to for inspiration than sci-fi music? That being said, I’m ridiculously excited that the Tron: Uprising soundtrack came out on Tuesday:

In case you aren’t familiar, Tron: Uprising is a cartoon series that takes place between the original Tron and Tron: Legacy. And if you weren’t familiar, you probably really didn’t care, but now you know. Elijah Wood does the voice of the main character, Beck. Since he also played Frodo Baggins, I’m pretty sure that makes him a bigger nerd than I could ever hope to be.

So instead of getting distracted by lyrics while I write, I get distracted by the urge to dance, which is really bad, because I can’t dance. Not even a little.

Is there anything weird or wonderful on your playlist?

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Debut Author Challenge

In the spirit of the shiny new year, I've decided to participate in the Debut Author Challenge. What better way to celebrate 2013 than to enjoy books from a fresh batch of authors?

If you want to know more about the challenge, follow this link to Hobbitsies blog.

After perusing the extensive list of debut releases and their descriptions, these are the books that stood out to me. You can click the titles to be magically transported to Goodreads:

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans (1/15/2013)

Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook (1/29/2013)

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd (1/29/2013)

Revolution 19 by Gregg Rosenblum (1/8/2013)

Altered by Jennifer Rush (1/2/2013)

Dualed by Elsie Chapman (2/26/2013)

Pivot Point by Kasie West (2/12/2013)

City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster (2/5/2013)

Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza (3/12/2013)

Poison by Bridget Zinn (3/12/2013)

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson (3/12/2013)

Taken by Erin Bowman (4/16/2013)

Arclight by Josin L. McQuein (5/1/2013)

Reboot by Amy Tintera (5/7/2013)

The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller (5/7/2013)

Parallel by Lauren Miller (5/14/2013)

The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke (5/21/2013)

Canary by Rachele Alpine (8/23/2013)

     ?         Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis (9/9/2013)

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman 

      ?        All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terill

Gated by Amy Christine Parker

The Ward by Jordana Frankel

Control by Lydia Kang

There were even more I could have added to the list, but realistically I probably won't even get through everything I've included here. That won't stop me from trying though! See anything here that you can't wait to read?

Thursday, 3 January 2013

My December Books

December was a lovely month for books, both the receiving of them and the reading of them. These are the books that were under the tree for me this Christmas:

I didn't read nearly as much as I would have liked in 2012. Seeing as I threw myself headfirst into writing and tried to be really disciplined about it, reading sometimes got pushed to the sidelines. Not entirely, but where I usually devour books, it was more of a little nibble here and there. Over the Christmas holidays I was able to kick back with several books, lots of chocolate chili pepper tea, and plenty of Christmas baking (and unlike my 2012 reading habits there was definitely more than a little nibble here and there of the baking). Here's what I read:

A little history, a little fantasy, a little sci-fi, and a whole lot of romance. It will probably come as no surprise to you that the first three were some of my favourite reads this year, especially Grave Mercy. I have to say 2013 is looking pretty amazing as far as sequels.

And now if I could get my nose out of a book, I might actually get around to taking down the Christmas tree. :)