Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, August 20-26, 2017

Some clicks to get that mental corn popping!

The best photos of the 2017 eclipse. Bored Panda

El Jones interviews several neurodiverse people for CBC’s “Tapestry.” If you didn’t catch this, listen to the podcast.

Kai Cole explains what really went down during her marriage to Joss Whedon. The Wrap

Madeleine Raynor shares a re-enactment of a wealthy woman getting dressed in 18th century England. Slate

Newsner reviews the amazing, though short, life of Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman, better known as journalist Nellie Bly.

Elyane Youssef says we are here to awaken each other. The Elephant Journal

Dr. Wallace J. Nichols reveals what being near water does to your brain. Hack Spirit

Judah Pollack and Olivia Fox Cabane explain what synaptic pruning is and why it’s important. Fast Company

A girl and her robot travel through an alternate 90s wasteland in these illustrations. Bored Panda

Andy Coghlan reveals the secret life of the dodo. New Scientist

Cara Giaimo shares lessons from a Victorian-era cat dictionary. Altas Obscura

Beck – Dear life

 

Terra Lightfoot – Paradise

 

And that was your edutainment for the week.

Be well until the weekend.

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, August 20-26, 2017

Here are your informal writerly learnings for the week, my peeps 🙂

Vaughn Roycroft delves into the trouble with action. Writer Unboxed

Sarah McCoy: friends, countrymen, take up your words! Writer Unboxed

Elissa Field dissects The Martian on Writer Unboxed.

If you catch yourself asking these questions about your book … just don’t. There are better questions to ask. K.M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become Authors.

Later in the week, Janice Hardy guest posts on Kate’s blog: how to create meaningful obstacles via conflict.

Jennifer Probst stops by Jane Friedman’s blog: writing secondary characters that pop—and sell more books.

Janice Hardy guest posts on Marcy Kennedy’s blog: the difference between conflict and tension.

Chuck Wendig has a simple solution for when your story hits the wall. Terribleminds

Terri Frank goes beyond John Grisham in her guide to legal fiction. DIY MFA

Audrey Kalman shares five tips to keep your writing fresh. DIY MFA

James Preston shares his novel launch experience. Writers in the Storm

Laura Drake knows self-belief is hard—how to do it anyway. Writers in the Storm

Wordstock 2017 organizers reveal literary line up. The Sudbury Star

Kayleigh Donaldson explores the mystery of how this book was bought onto the NYT bestseller list. Pajiba

English translations of obscure medieval texts go online. Allison Meier for Hyperallergic.

Nina Munteanu: resonating with the universe.

Buffy’s legacy does not belong to Joss Whedon. Karen Walsh, Geek Mom.

Sarah Bond: what Game of Thrones gets right and wrong about eunuchs and masculinity. Forbes

Be well until thoughty Thursday!

tipsday2016

The Writing Excuses Retreat, part 2

Copenhagen and day at sea

In this instalment, I’m covering days two and three of the Writing Excuses Retreat (WXR) Baltic cruise.

On day two, I was up fairly early, mostly because I hadn’t yet fully adjusted to the time change. Then again, daylight savings messes me up twice a year and the two times I travelled west, I never adjusted to the time change at all. I just got by on a sleep deficit for the week I was in Vancouver and Calgary, respectively.

It was a good thing, though. Day two was our day in Copenhagen and I had a tour to catch.

We went straight to the Little Mermaid. The Little Mermaid has always been one of my favourite Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales. This is probably due to the 1975 animated version narrated by Richard Chamberlain. It was faithful to the tale Andersen popularized, including the attempted murder of the Prince and suicide of the heroine.

LittleMermaid

Of course, I know it’s a terribly misogynist tale that entrenches some vile stereotypes of feminine agency, or the lack thereof. But it’s still one of my favourites.

Fountain

We then stopped at the Fountain of Gefion, the goddess who created Denmark. The Swedish king Gylfi promised her all the land she could plough in a night. She turned her four sons into oxen and the land she ploughed was thrown into the sea to become Denmark. Next to the fountain was the oldest Anglican Church in Denmark.

Christianborg

From there, we visited the Christianborg Palace courtyard (our tour did not go inside) and saw the opera house, the canal, and the new incinerator. Our tour guide proudly pointed out that Copenhagen imported garbage to incinerate from all over the EU and that 100% of private residences ran on renewable energy.

canal

Interestingly, the new incinerating facility was built like a mountain and the plan is to have a ski hill on its slope. Denmark is a flat land and citizens have to travel elsewhere to ski.

Next, we toured the royal reception hall. Though once the place of all royal business, the hall is now only used to entertain visiting dignitaries.

Some intriguing facts about Queen Margrethe: she’s an artist. Under a pseudonym, she illustrated an edition of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. She designed one of the carpets in the reception hall. For her 50th birthday in 1990, the queen was presented with 17 surrealist tapestries depicting the history of Denmark.

Tapestry

My picture does not do the tapestries justice. They were breathtaking. My favourite room in the reception hall.

Well, I was rather fond of the library, too.

library

The history of the Danish kings (either Christian or Frederick) reads like Game of Thrones. Our tour guide intimated that George R.R. Martin drew inspiration for some aspects of Westeros from Danish history.

The tour returned to the Fantasia just after noon and I had time to grab lunch before John Berlyne’s presentation on the purpose of an agent.

JohnBerlyne

Then, Aliette de Bodard presented Worldbuilding in the Smallest Parts and it was time for dinner.

That night, I was seated with other attendees, but our table was short one. At the table next to us, one lone participant sat. We asked him over, but he was waiting for his spouse, so two of our table went to join him, instead. And it wasn’t too long before another table of two was asked to join us. Yes, it was musical chairs night, but it was one of the best evening meals I had with the two Sarahs and the two Laurens 🙂

Unfortunately, that was also the night my throat got sore, heralding the cold that was to become known as Cruise Crud. I’m still clearing out the trachea, three weeks later … at the time, I thought it was just the wine and the continual gales of laughter.

That night, we once more passed under the Øresund bridge, but I didn’t get another picture.

On day three, we crossed the Baltic heading toward Stockholm, Sweden.

I just want to digress for a moment. I’d never been on a ship the size of the Fantasia before. Sure, I spent many summers on my uncle’s houseboat. Yes, I’ve been on ferries like the Toronto Island ferry and the Chi-cheemaun. I was fairly confident that I wouldn’t be sea sick, but I had no clue.

The truth is, I barely felt the ship’s movement. When we departed or approached a pier, yes. The ship had to employ engines on the sides of the ship. There’s not enough pier to glide in like a smaller ship might. So the ship moves parallel and sidles up. That’s when you feel the chop.

So I’m happy to say my constitution did not let me down. In that respect, anyway.

I got to sleep in a bit on day three. Not that I actually did, but I didn’t really have anything to get up early for. Every morning, the instructors gathered for office hours, but I didn’t have any specific questions to ply them with … yet.

After the breakfast buffet, I headed down to the breakout session. I was group cake, but I’d signed up for the lightning readings in the afternoon and attended Mary Robinette Kowal’s foreshortened How to Present workshop which was squeezed in at the beginning of the breakout session.

MaryRobinetteKowal

Then, I hung out until my one-on-one with Tempest, which was scheduled in the middle of the breakout session. Day three was my first real opportunity to do any writing and the first day I felt like my body had adjusted to being seven hours in the past 😉 I lugged my laptop around with me so I could use what opportunities I could.

WesleyChu

Back to the buffet for lunch, and then it was time for Wesley Chu’s Deep Dive into Action presentation, which was followed by the lightning readings, at which I believe I acquitted myself well.

Afterward, Margaret commented that she wanted to read the novel when it came out. I think I blushed. The reading was from a short story, but I guess that’s just more confirmation that my story ideas tend toward novel-length projects.

There were a lot of interesting pieces and I’m looking forward to reading some of the resulting projects, whether story or novel, as well 🙂

Day three was the evening of the costume contest. I didn’t have room to pack one, but there were some very clever costumes. Ann Tagonist and Professor Tagonist had the pages of a book incorporated into their costumes. One young man was the Excuses Monster, onto which people were invited to write their writing excuses on Post-its and stick them to his cape.

There were a number of flappers and a number of Regency costumes. Waldo and Carmen Santiago made an appearance, as did Nanny Og.

masquerade

That night, I sat at Mary’s table at supper. It was another night of fascinating conversation at which I got to regale the group about my malignant hyperthermia (Google it).

The Cruise Crud was blossoming, so I once again called it a night after supper.

And that’s where I’m going to pause in my tale.

Next weekend, we enter a new month and it will be time for my Next chapter update.

I’ll pick up with our arrival in Stockholm on the weekend of the 9th.

Until my next blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong, my friends 🙂

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, August 13-19, 2017

Thoughty Thursday starts off a bit dark this week.

As we become more effective at keeping guns and bomb-making materials out of the hands of extremists and terrorists, they turn to more accessible weapons like knives and vehicles. Fewer people may die, but even one death is too many.

Jack Holmes shares the Vice documentary on Charlottesville. Esquire

Karen Attiah covers Charlottesville the way Western media covers other nations. The Washington Post

How to make fun of Nazis: an alternative to meeting violence with violence. Moises Velasquez-Manoff for The New York Times.

Raphael Minder and Patrick Kingsley report on the latest from Barcelona. The New York Times

Philip Oltermann covers the fatal stabbing in Turku, Finland. The Guardian

 

Gina Kolata: researchers track an unlikely culprit in weight gain. The New York Times

Samantha Leal looks at warrior women throughout history. Marie Claire

Mandy Oaklander introduces us to the new hope for depression. Time Magazine

Lily Carollo interviews Julie Rehmeyer about the loneliness of having an illness science doesn’t understand. The Science of Us

Why loneliness can be as unhealthy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. CBC

And for balance, and because alone doesn’t have to mean lonely, check out these illustrations by Yaoyao Ma Van As that capture the happiness of living alone. Bored Panda

Trees with “crown shyness” mysteriously avoid touching each other. Kelly Richman-Abdou for My Modern Met.

David Baron: you owe it to yourself to see a full solar eclipse before you die. Ted Talks

 

Hilary Mitchell shares 19 facts about Elizabethan England that will blow your mind. Buzzfeed

Alexa Tanney lists 21 memes you need to send to your coworkers ASAP. Buzzfeed

I hope something got the mental corn popping.

Be well until the weekend.

thoughtythursday2016

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, August 13-19, 2017

The triumphant return of Tipsday includes lots of informal writerly learning for you 🙂

K.M. Weiland shares four ways to write a thought-provoking mentor character. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Alida Winternheimer helps you choose the right POV. Helping Writers Become Authors

Sara Letourneau visits the Writers Helping Writers coaching corner: struggling with (and regaining) confidence in your writing.

Dave King explores unspoken dialogue. Writer Unboxed

Kathleen McCleary: non-advice for writers. Writer Unboxed

Sorry I’ve missed a couple, but I’m picking up Janice Hardy’s birth of a book series with this instalment: writing the first draft. Fiction University

Monica Alvarado Frazier: when you need a kick in the writing butt.

Abigail K. Perry discusses the merits of writing back cover copy. DIY MFA

Irina Brignull shares five tips for creating characters readers will connect with. DIY MFA

Chris Winkle outlines the five essentials of omniscient narration. Mythcreants

Suzanne Purvis helps you get your fabulous characters into your synopsis. Writers in the Storm

Tasha Seegmiller: so you want to write an outline … Writers in the Storm

I’m so excited about this, I can’t even. Laurie Schnebly Campbell unpacks Kim Hudson’s heroine’s journey. Writers in the Storm

And, related: Rachael Stephen digs in and explains how Harmon’s plot embryo can be used to plot novels 🙂

 

Oren Ashkenazi lists six signs your story may be queerphobic. Mythcreants

Lynne M. Thomas visits Terribleminds to talk about Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction: fight on, space unicorns!

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry: I built my own goddamn castle. Tor.com

And though this is older, it’s still thought-provoking: a year of diverse authors (cue literary frenzy) (February 2015). Chris Brecheen

Nate Hoffelder guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog: six common sense steps to securing a WordPress website.

Tim Ferriss visits Nathan Bransford’s blog: the definitive guide to SEO for authors.

E Ce Miller lists 23 words that every booklover (ahem, bibliophile) should incorporate into their vocabulary. Bustle

Amanda Morris reports on how fused imaging has revealed sixth-century writing hidden in a book’s binding. Northwestern University

Where did English come from? Claire Bowern for Ted-Ed.

 

Kristopher Jansma says, now, more than ever, we wish we had these lost Octavia Butler novels. Electric Lit

Dominic Patten: Ava DuVernay is part of the creative team bringing Octavia Butler’s Dawn to television. Deadline Hollywood

Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” defies genre. Gabrielle Bellot for Tor.com.

And that’s it until next Tipsday.

Be well. Good words at y’all 😉

tipsday2016

The Writing Excuses Baltic Cruise, part 1

I’m baaa-aaack!

Did you miss me?

As you might be able to tell from the title of this post, I’ve decided to break up my Writing Excuses Retreat (WXR) experience into parts. There was just too much writerly (and other) goodness going on for me to pack into one post, even in summary.

And that is what I intend to provide for you here: a summary. An event like this really has to be experienced to appreciate the impact it can have on a life. Not just a writer’s life, either. Any life.

I’ve never been outside continental North America before. Simply going to Europe and getting a taste of seven different countries changed me as a person. If you haven’t travelled, I highly recommend it. Even if you think you can’t afford it, save up (preferable), ask for financial assistance, or, if you have the means (i.e. stable employment) and aren’t too far into debt already, commit to some medium term debt and a reasonable strategy for getting out of it. Planning is everything in this last instance.

It was so worth it for me.

As you may remember from my last post, pre-departure, anxiety was having its way with me. I knew once I got in the air, I’d be fine. Once the first plane is boarded, there’s really no turning back. Even my anxiety can’t argue that point.

The journey was nonetheless fraught.

I got up at 5 am, so I could get to the airport by 6:30 and check in to board my flight at 7:30. The usual Skycheck service wasn’t available, but Air Canada checked my baggage (I only had the one, carryon-sized case) at no extra charge.

I arrived at Pearson International at 8:30, retrieved my bag, and had time for a leisurely breakfast. I had time to search out the Iceland Air registration desk and find out when it would open. It turns out that contrary to the general advice to be in the airport three to four hours ahead of your departure time that you can’t even check in or start the security process until two hours before boarding.

Still, I’m glad I gave myself a wide margin. I could have caught the next flight if the first one had been cancelled. I would have had the time to take an Airporter to Pearson, if necessary.

The journey from there was similarly without incident. The eight hour layover in the Reyjavik airport was, if anything, a little boring. I worried a bit about my flight not showing up on the information board until about an hour before departure, but there was no real problem.

KeflavikAt3am

HamburgAirport

When I landed in Hamburg, I wandered around for a while before I found a group of  WXR cruisers and caught the shuttle to Kiel. I made friends right away on the shuttle (virtual hugs to Margaret Dunlap), while I fought the exhaustion of travel. We arrived at the Atlantic Hotel, checked in, and I met my room mate (more hugs to Becky!).

AtlanticHotelinKiel

I did not nap. I kind of got my second wind in the afternoon and made some more friends (waves at Mike, Oliver, and Alex—Strumpwaffle bonding!), met Mary Robinette Kowal again, Kathy Chung who, in addition to being Security Officer for the cruise, is also the Coordinator for the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC), and K. Tempest Bradford, with whom I took the spring offering of Writing the Other.

A group of us went to Vapiano, a popular European chain of Italian restaurants, for supper, and then returned to the conference room for the evening orientation session and taping of the Tea and Jeopardy podcast (!) featuring His Majesty, Dan Wells 🙂

At this point, I’d been up for nearly 30 hours, and, after a much-needed shower, I collapsed.

The next morning, after breakfast, there was the embarkation information session, during which we were divided into groups for our first event—a scavenger hunt, we collected our baggage, and prepared to board the MSC Fantasia.

The thing I dislike most about travelling is all the queuing. There are line ups everywhere: to check in, get through security, and to board (for each flight), for the shuttle, and to check in to the hotel. Cruise embarkation was no different.

We were bussed to the pier in shifts, based on our scavenger hunt groups, and, once there, had to relinquish our luggage to the handlers, prepare our boarding documents, and—you guessed it—queue up for embarkation.

It was like an amusement park line. Looooong.

MSCFantasia

But once aboard, I located my stateroom, outside of which my luggage had been left, got unpacked, and got my credit card registered before it was time to gather for the scavenger hunt.

MyStateroom

WXR instructors hid throughout the ship, and each team had to solve riddles to find them, hopefully ending up in the buffet at the end, in time to have lunch. My group was a little late starting out and we missed the final check-in point, but we had fun solving the riddles and did bond over the experience.

There was an afternoon workshop that I ended up choosing to miss, on writing through distraction. My more pressing need at the time was for some food and I acquainted myself with the buffet 🙂

I had time to sign up for a wi-fi package for the trip before muster, which is the emergency drill for the ship, and returned to my stateroom in time for our departure from Kiel.

FearAndWritingEmmaNewman

That evening, I attended Emma Newman’s (yes, she of Tea and Jeopardy) presentation on Fear and Writing. Mary intentionally organized Emma’s presentation for the first evening, as fear is every writer’s worst enemy. It was hoped that Emma’s presentation would allow us to set appropriate goals for the cruise. I’ll just say that it was brilliant, and one of my favourites of the cruise.

SunsetDay1

At supper, I sat at Howard and Sandra Tayler’s table. It was a great first night getting to know a couple of our hosts, and some of my fellow WXR participants.

Normally, for a cruise, the passengers sit at the same table every night and the serving staff is able to develop a relationship with them. For the WXR cruise, we would be assigned different seating each night at supper so that we could get to know one another better. It made for more difficulty for the serving staff, but a better experience for the retreat’s participants.

Supper that first night was a late sitting (9:30) and by the time I got back to my stateroom, I was just in time to watch the ship (it’s huge—18 storeys I was told) pass under the Øresund bridge between Sweden and Denmark. Other cruisers went to the uppermost deck of the ship to take pictures, but I didn’t have time to get up there (!)

UnderTheBridge

And that’s where I will leave my journey for now.

In my next instalment, I hope to cover Copenhagen and Stockholm. After that, it will be time for my Next Chapter combination update for July and August, and then I’ll continue with my adventure through Tallinn and St. Petersburg. Then, I think I’ll write a couple of posts to cover my Finland adventure and WorldCon, before I turn to other topics.

Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday will resume through to NaNoWriMo when my next blogging hiatus takes place.

Recent events in Charlottesville, Barcelona, and Turku have my heart aching. Still, the battered thing goes out to all of those affected by extremism and terrorism. We can resist, heal, and make a better world.

Until next I post, be well, be kind, and stay strong, my friends. The world needs your stories now, more than ever!