Why you should enrol in Writing the Other

Disclaimer: I’m a total newb at trying to express my thoughts and feelings on diversity and cultural appropriation. If I inadvertently write anything offensive or harmful, I invite you to let me know. But I have to start somewhere, try and fail, or I might never improve. Thank you, in advance, for your time, attention, and kind intervention (if required).

I’m not rolling up content as I have in other posts of this nature.

Out of the gate, I’ll recommend Writing the Other (WtO) to any writer concerned about writing inclusive fiction with respect and dignity accorded to characters unlike the authorial self. If you’re not concerned with these vital aspects of craft, then stop reading this post now. There’s nothing for you here.

K. Tempest Bradford and Nisi Shawl deliver an amazing and thought provoking course, the point of which is not to police creativity, but to ask authors to examine their fears, context, and assumptions, and to do their best to write inclusively. WtO will give you the tools to write characters of other ROAARS (race, sexual orientation, age, ability, religion, and sex) characteristics with integrity, and the resources to deepen your knowledge and understanding.

The point is that writing well is hard work, and writing well and respectfully of otherness takes effort and practice, like any other aspect of the craft. You have to be open, willing to learn, willing to practice, and willing to think critically about the creative choices you make in your fiction.

Those of us who come from a background of privilege (white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied, etc.) and those of use who align fairly closely with the unmarked state, still want to write inclusively. If we do so without due consideration, education, or research, we run the risk of harming the people from the same communities as the characters we write from sheer ignorance.

This can take the form of tokenism. Only have one character who is a person of colour? Why not include two, or even three, so readers can see that these characters are, first and foremost, people? Explore the experience of these characters in a fully-fleshed and respectful way. Give them voices. Compare and contrast them. Give them as much attention and thought to them as you give your main character. They may not have as big a role to play in your story, but they deserve to be real.

If your one gay character just happens to be the antagonist, you may inadvertently send the message that you think all gay people are like the antagonist. If your one trans character is the sidekick who gets killed, they become disposable, and that is another negative message you may unintentionally send.

If you have a disabled character who is “cured” by technology or magic, you effectively erase the character’s identity and struggle. If the character has to be able-bodied for the story you’re telling, then tell the story with an able-bodied character. Think about why you want to write a disabled character. If it’s to honour their struggle, then honour it. If you just think it’s cool, that may be true, but your choices may bear more thought.

Recently, in Canada, there was the “appropriation prize” debacle. [I’ve been curating articles and posts on the issues, in Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday, for the past few weeks. Peruse, if you’re so inclined.]

Last year, there was the Lionel Shriver controversy. [And yeah, I curated that one, too.]

Cultural appropriation happens when you take a story that belongs to a culture other than your own without permission and consultation (both are required) and write about it in a way that dishonours the originating culture.

This can happen in any of the arts.

The word diversity has been thrown about in publishing and writing so much in recent years that the word has almost lost its meaning. I’ve heard of speakers who have retreated from panels on literary diversity because they are often attacked or their statements taken out of context for the sake of theatrics or sensationalism.

Diversity, to me, means that people of colour, of other sexual orientations, of differing ability, age, religion, or sex, should write their own stories. And they should be welcomed into the publishing world. We need more editors, agents, and other publishing professionals who are from different backgrounds, too.

This doesn’t mean that no one should write a character that doesn’t share their background. If they do, though, they should be prepared to take the time and do the research to represent that character authentically.

For myself, I’ve decided that I won’t write a protagonist that is significantly different from me. That’s my personal choice, though. I won’t prohibit anyone else from doing that. And there are some writers who have written the other brilliantly, so I won’t say that it can’t be done. I choose not to.

But I want to write inclusively about a world that’s like the one I see every day. To do that, I have to educate myself. And WtO was a first step on that path.

As always, be well, be kind, and stay strong.

Muse-inks

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, May 14-20, 2017

A little bit of this and a little bit of that, all to get your mental corn popping 🙂

SOS Safety Magazine lists four signs of a person with high-functioning depression. This is me.

How stress changes the brain and body (with helpful TED-Ed video). Mindful

ASAP Science shares seven ways to reduce your stress right now.

 

Wendi looks at the dark side of empathic people. Parhlo

Jesse Menayan shares what he and the Casper research team discovered about how couples affect each other’s sleep. Yeah, it’s a big ole advertisement, but the research is interesting and sleep is important. Medium

Dom Galeon: our brains might be 100 times more powerful than we thought. Futurism

Heidi Priebe profiles the personal hells of each Myers-Briggs personality type. My personal hell? Learning how everything I’ve said or done has hurt someone else, intentional or otherwise. Yup. Writhing already. Thought Catalog

A wee clip from Michael Moore on Finland’s school system.

 

Simon Parkin: teaching robots right from wrong. 1843 Magazine

Etan Vlessing covers the creation of A World without Canada, a dystopian series narrated by Dan Ackroyd and featuring Robert J. Sawyer. The Hollywood Reporter

Richard O. Prum writes of duck sex and the patriarchy. Though it’s hard to tell from the title, this is an amazing article. The New Yorker

Gaze in awe at these colourized photos of Russian women snipers, who terrorized the Nazis in WWII. Julian Robinson for Mail Online.

Alex Tizon tells the heart wrenching story of his family’s slave. The Atlantic

Chris Jones shares footage of how narwhales use their tusks. IFLS

Skandinavian folk on nyckelharpa, by Myrkur:

 

And your kawaii for the week: Ozzy, the desk weasel.

 

See you Saturday for my wrap up post about Writing the Other. Tasty, tasty!

Be well until then, my friends.

thoughtythursday2016

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 14-20, 2017

Another tasty batch of informal writerly learnings for you 🙂

K.M. Weiland gracefully admits that she was wrong: eventually, writing does get easier. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate explains how to take advantage of your four most important characters.

Roz Morris says, if you want to become a writer, social media is a long-term investment for your career. Nail Your Novel

Vaughn Roycroft wonders if you’re destined to write. Writer Unboxed

Dave King wants you to go beyond the first five pages. Writer Unboxed

Annie Neugebauer says, you’re amazing and you can do this! Writer Unboxed

Porter Anderson rounds up some provocative writerly news for Writer Unboxed.

Lisa Cron visits Writers in the Storm to explain how your character’s origin scene is where your story really begins.

Sara Letourneau visits the Writers Helping Writers coaching corner: using real-world locations to ground your story’s setting.

Following up on Sara’s post, Becca Puglisi helps you decide if a writing residency is right for you. Writers Helping Writers

Angela Ackerman makes another entry for the character motivation thesaurus: discovering one’s true self. Writers Helping Writers

Kristen Lamb talks writing process: it ain’t no unicorn hug.

Emily Wenstrom touts the value of an Amazon follow. DIY MFA

Robin Lovett introduces us to the subgenres and varieties of romance. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira interviews Jenni Walsh and Bess Cozby on the author/editor relationship. DIY MFA

Chuck Wendig offers a hot, steaming sack of business advice for writers. Hey, blame Victoria (V.E.) Schwab. Terribleminds

Jami Gold tells us what to do when readers don’t believe our stories.

Lesley L. Smith tells you how to put the science in your science fiction. Fiction University

Wendy Laine visits Jami Gold’s blog to discuss diversity and the importance of “Own Voices.”

I told you there’d be more coming on cultural appropriation:

On the good news end of things: crowdfunding campaign raises thousands for Indigenous writers’ award. Marsha Lederman for The Globe and Mail.

Zora Oneill lists eleven words that make more sense when you know their Arabic roots. Mental Floss

Alex Preston explains how print books have trumped ebooks. The Guardian

From dark to dark: yes, women have always written space opera. Judith Tarr for Tor.com.

Sarah Mangiola interviews Grand Master Jane Yolen: write the damn book. The Portalist

Lili Loufbourow: Jessica Jones is a shattering exploration of rape, addiction, and control (originally published in November 2015, but still a fabulous analysis). The Guardian

Charlie Jane Anders analyzes Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2: the most popular movie in America is all about toxic fatherhood. Tor.com

And that’s it until next Tipsday, but be sure to come back for your dose of mental corn-popping inspiration on Thoughty Thursday!

Be well until then, my friends.

tipsday2016

Story Masters: May 11-14, 2017

This lovely workshop came to my attention last year through Jenny Madore, a writer friend. It was put together by Lorin Oberweger and Free Expressions. Jenny sent me a notice last spring, yes, that was waaaay back in March of 2016, with the notification and a special early-bird discount.

The notification? Christopher Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Donald Maass would be coming to Toronto to present their Story Masters workshop. Needless to say, I registered on the spot.

Fast forward to May 10, 2017, and I was on my way to the Crowne Plaza Airport and excited to learn from these three masters of story.

Day one: Christopher Vogler

ChristopherVoglerI’ve read The Writer’s Journey (and Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, Murdock’s The Heroine’s Journey and The Hero’s Daughter, as well as watching Campbell’s series with Bill Moyer, The Power of Myth), and I was looking forward to meeting Christopher Vogler in person.

One thing I’d forgotten, having read his book years ago, was that Vogler is a screenwriter. He’s been working with the hero’s journey for forty years, since his film school days.

Highlights of the presentation:

  • A knowledge of structure will help you see the bones of a story.
  • The map is not the journey.
  • Get all five senses on the page – Ray Bradbury.
  • They won’t remember your words but they’ll remember how you made them feel – Maya Angelou.
  • Economy of language.
  • Make invisible things visible.
  • Use dissonance.
  • Theme – boil it down to one word.
  • The chakra system can be used to orient where your story comes from. There’s a parallel between the chakras and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
  • Vogler’s rule – the story’s good if two or more organs are leaking fluids. Visceral, but accurate (blood, sweat, tears, vomit, pee—from fear or laughter, and, erm, sexual fluids—it’s true; a well-written sex scene gets the juices flowing, doesn’t it?).
  • A story should be focused, “in alignment with the grid,” a term from dance.
  • How your protagonist/main character enters the story is critical. Classically, protagonist means the first person to struggle. Now, that’s your hero or main character.
  • A story should evoke catharsis. The classical definition of catharsis was vomiting. Now it’s an emotional cleansing.
  • How stories work: want vs. need. Want is generally external or physical. Need is internal or emotional. There are two story questions, one inner and one outer. It creates suspense. There’s always a price.
  • Every world/milieu is polarized. The hero brings synthesis.

Vogler also showed us a number of movie clips to illustrate the 12 stages of the hero’s journey, discussed the two founders of screenwriting, Aristotle and Syd Field, three-act structure and how the hero’s journey works with it, storytelling aesthetics, and his own meeting with Campbell.

Day two: James Scott Bell

I’ve read some of Bell’s writing craft books and followed his collective/blog – Kill Zone. Again, I was looking forward to meeting JamesScottBellsomeone I’d only ever known as a virtual presence.

  • A writer needs to have an edge. What is it? Unforgettable writing. Seductive believability.
  • Write from the middle. The mirror moment. What’s happening to the character at that moment is what the story’s about.
  • The mirror moment can focus on one of two things: 1) Who am I? What have I become? What will I become? [emotional/spiritual struggle] Or, 2) I’m going to die. [Physical] The death can be metaphorical. Both result in the transformation of your character.
  • Once you know what your story’s about, you have your focus, your theme.
  • Pre-story psychology. Does your character have a moral flaw to overcome? Do they change or get their comeuppance? Is your character ordinary? What circumstances force the character to change?
  • Short fiction is about a shattering moment rather than a mirror moment.
  • Bell’s golden triangle: pre-story psychology leads to the mirror moment, which leads to the transformation. It can be applied in an individual novel, or over the course of the series, or both.
  • The shadow story – what’s happening elsewhere?
  • Keep a story journal to keep track.
  • Great characters jump off the page. They’re unpredictable, burning, wounded, complex, resourceful, courageous, noble.
  • Bell’s corollary to Vogler’s rule: you must have a fluid fight inside your character.
  • Ways to develop character: 1) The closet search – what’s the skeleton? 2) Throwing the chair (out the window) – why do they do it? 3) Best day/worst day. 4) What tattoo do they have, where, and why? Or, why would they never get a tattoo? 5) what would they do or think about in jail?
  • Opposition character: you must know what they yearn for, why they deserve it, and then make your closing argument (convince the reader).
  • Cut the boring parts, or, make them interesting.
  • Fear is a continuum. It raises the stakes. Fear of the known. Fear of the unknown.
  • Scene structure: every scene must have an objective, obstacles, and an outcome [yes, but/no, and].
  • SUES = something unexpected in every scene.
  • Every scene has a reaction: time for thought, perception, emotion, backflash (short remembrance), or flashback (full scene – use sparingly).
  • Dialogue: every character has an agenda. If those agendas are conflicting, even better. Dialogue creates conflict/tension, subtext, sets the tone for the scene, and sets the tone for the characters. Specific concerns: vocabulary, expressions, syntax. They should vary between characters. Dialogue should be unpredictable and compressed. Dialogue should reveal character webs, backstory, and theme.
  • Tools: Orchestration, transactional analysis (Google it), curve the language.

Bell, also from a screenwriting background, showed us clips from Casablanca and Now, Voyager and cited a number of novels (ranging from Gone with the Wind to The Hunger Games) to illustrate his points, linked to Vogler’s hero’s journey, and set us up for Donald Maass’s presentation on the next day.

Day three: Donald Maass

DonaldMaassI think Donald Maass was the story master I was most excited to meet. I’ve bought and read all of his books (except The Emotional Craft of Fiction, which I bought at the event), and I’ve read and shared all of his Writer Unboxed contributions.

I’m such a fan that when I met him in the elevator, I blurted out, “I’m here to see you!” like a total fangirl.

He paused. “Do I know you? You look familiar …”

“We’ve never met in person, but you may have seen me online—the white hair’s distinctive. I share all of your posts. I’m a big fan.” And then, mercifully, we reached the lobby and debarked. I was completely mortified, certain Maass thought I was a stalker.

It reminded me of a recent post by my friend, Kim, who said she becomes so distracted in the presence of a writer that she says the most inappropriate things. Happens to me all the time.

For those of you who haven’t been to a Donald Maass presentation, it’s a bit different from what you might expect. He presents a topic, speaks briefly, and then, he begins to ask questions. The questions are intended to guide you into the heart of your characters, your scenes, your story.

It’s very meditative, very zen. And totally effective.

Unfortunately, after a few hours, the brain stops working and you just write down the questions for future review and examination. At least, that’s what happened to my brain.

I just wanted to give you a flavour of Maass’s style.

Openings

  • Too many novel openings are written objectively despite the prevalence of first and close third person narration.
  • Where does the story truly begin?
  • Story does not equal plot.
  • What’s different and how does your protagonist know things will never be the same? What symbolizes this? What do they do differently? What needs to be explained? What expertise does your protagonist have? What do they know that the reader needs to know? How does the trouble come? Why?

Voice

  • Writers adopt a voice that suits the genre, but not the story.
  • What happens? What’s unique to the setting? What anchors you? What wakes you up to your reality? What’s unique to the character? Name, role/occupation, what task/goal/purpose do they think they have? What’s on the “to do” list of your character?
  • [We then did an exercise in which we rewrote the beginning of our works in progress with three different voices: ironic, academic, and spiritual.]
  • The inner life of the character is the true story.
  • Plot does not equal story.

Emotion

  • You have to write with emotion about emotion in a way that deeply engages readers.
  • What makes you angry?
  • Your protagonist feels a new emotion. Pause. Slow things down. Go deeper. How does that change your protagonist? What will they never do again? What will they never feel again? What will they never feel the same way about again?
  • How do you create the sense of an evolving human being rather than someone to whom stuff happens?
  • Does your character have flaws?
  • My Writer Unboxed colleague Lisa Cron wrote a book called Story Genius that I highly recommend. She states every character has a misbelief that shapes their story. What is your character’s misbelief? Who will be hurt because of their misbelief? What does the character get wrong? What do they believe that will cost them dearly? Who will walk away from them because of the misbelief? What will they lose? What can they do that shows they’ve changed? Is it big? Symbolic? What’s the secret they’ve never told anyone? Is your protagonist concealing something from someone else?
  • What’s the character’s origin story?

Other facets of novel construction

  • Summary. Lorin Oberweger posted on Writer Unboxed about this. When should you use it?
  • Scene structure. Things have changed by the end of the scene. Subvert expectations. Show the inner shift in the novel. Scenes must change either the plot or the character.
  • Enhancing the story world. What’s the environment? What does your protagonist see that no one else sees? What does your antagonist see? Is there a class structure? How does that play out with your characters? What historical events have shaped the world? What are the political structures? What is just not done? Is there a code of honour? How do you make a deal? How do you pay respect?
  • Telling and showing. Both have value.

What do readers want?

  • They want an emotional experience. They want to engage with your protagonist. They want a satisfying payoff. They want aesthetic value. They want a challenge. They want to figure it out. They want a feeling of success.
  • Readers have their own journey.

Third level emotion

  • Pick a pivotal scene in your novel. What is the character feeling? What else are they feeling (cancel out any similar emotions)? And again, what else (that is like neither of the first two)?
  • Use the third emotion you identify to frame the character in the scene. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s very effective. Readers use cognitive evaluation.

Mythic roles (archetypes)

  • What fairy tale character is your protagonist most like? Shakespearean? Biblical? Greek or Roman mythos? Indigenous or other cultural figure? Urban legend?
  • What symbology have you built around your character?

The four things your story must do

  • The macro level: structure/plot/character arc.
  • Scene level: structure and goals.
  • Microtension: every page, every line. Court cognitive dissonance.
  • Subvert reader expectations.

The big event

  • Think of the event that changes everything for your protagonist and the story world. What causes people to think it’s never going to happen? Think of three reasons why. How do we know it will happen? Think of three reasons.
  • Take out foreshadowing. Include misdirection. Manipulate expectations.
  • Choose a secondary character who is good. Invent a way to create doubt. Cast suspicion.
  • Make the reader wait for the payoff. What are three reasons it might be the wrong thing for your protagonist to do? Build a case for doing something different.
  • Every story has a moral map. Point the reader down the path. What makes a reader care even when nothing is happening? Hope. What is good? What can be saved?

StoryMasters

Day four was an analysis of To Kill a Mockingbird in which all three story masters brought their individual strengths to bear.

My brain was mush by the end, but I brought a lot of awesome back with me and twice as many pages of notes as what I’ve shared with you here.

RobertJSawyerOther writerly goodness: I met Jenny Madore in person, saw writer friends Jeanette Winsor and Sue Reynolds, and hung out with Robert J. Sawyer for a bit. It was comforting to know that someone I consider a story master in his own right is still learning 🙂

I had a fabulous time and suggest you check out the Free Expressions web site if you’re interested in attending one of their workshops.

As always, my friends, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

Muse-inks

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, May 7-13, 2017

Time to get your mental corn popping 🙂

Torey Van Oot sits down with Malala Yusafsai to discuss her Nobel and college. Refinery 29

Katie-Anne Laulumets explains how to love a daughter of the forest. The Elephant Journal

Thom Dunn shares 17 stunning photos of black Victorians that show what history really looked like. UpWorthy

Medievalists.net: women’s medicine and feminine embodiment in Morte D’Arthur, a middle English Trotula treatise, and The Mists of Avalon.

Nathan H. Lents, PhD, reveals the big news about homo naledi. Skeptic

Travis M. Andrews reports on a dinosaur fossil so well-preserved, it looks like a statue. The Washington Post

Here’s the additional cutural appropriation posts I promised:

Alli Kirkham shares a comic about double standards. Everyday Feminism

A Fordham professor becomes an accidental icon. BoredPanda

Rania Naim says, you’re allowed to leave … Thought Catalog

Dave Booda promises, it’s not lame to ask a woman’s permission. The Good Men Project

Lesley Stahl: what the last Nuremburg prosecutor alive wants the world to know. 60 Minutes

Steve Paulson: Roger Penrose’s theory on how consciousness doesn’t compute and why some scientists disagree. Nautilus

Steve John Powell looks at mindfulness: the Japanese skill that everyone wants to copy. BBC

Emma Seppala: happiness research shows the biggest obstacle to creativity is being too busy. Quartz

Phil Plait: colliding clusters of galaxies make gorgeous waves. Blastr

NASA’s Juno spacecraft beams back the sharpest images of Jupiter yet. EWAO (Earth. We are one.)

Wasn’t sure where to put this … Kate Rose discusses the full moon crossing Vishika, or, as a friend said, full moon in scorpio. The post comes with a lovely disclaimer 😉 The Elephant Journal

Selena Chambers pays tribute to the women surrealists helping her through the new political reality. Literary Hub

Marissa Fessenden reports that Lake Michigan is so clear its shipwrecks are visible from the air. Smart News

Adam Rogers: all the trees will die, and then so will you. Wired

Thomas Dambo makes wooden giants and then hides them around Copenhagen. Can You Actually

The bucket, A.K.A. some guy put a go pro at the bottom of a bucket. It’s quite cool, though. And tranquil.

 

This weekend, I’ll have a post about Story Masters for you.

Until next I blog, be well.

thoughtythursday2016

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 7-13, 2017

It’s time to get your informal writerly learnings for the week 🙂

Jess Lourey touts the therapeutic benefits of writing a novel. Writer Unboxed

Then, she pops over to Jane Friedman’s blog: classic story structures and what they teach us about novel plotting.

Kristen Tsetsi chats with Jane Friedman about how books become bestsellers.

Then, Susan De Freitas guest posts on Jane’s blog: how to spot toxic feedback.

September C. Fawkes visits the Writers Helping Writers coaches’ corner: complex characters and the power of contradiction.

Sarah Juckes offers a cheat’s guide to writing a synopsis. Writers Helping Writers

Remember that crazy Lionel Shriver keynote and the various responses I shared last fall? Well, Keith Cronin tackles the topic for Writer Unboxed: in which a white guy talks about cultural appropriation.

There’s more to come on thoughty Thursday, and even more, next week. Stay tuned.

Susan Spann tells you when to walk away from a publishing deal. Writers in the Storm

Janice Hardy differentiates conflict from tension and explains how to make it work for you. Fiction University

Later in the week, Janice helps you figure out what to do when you think you have the wrong protagonist.

Maurice Broaddus visits Terribleminds: wrestling with writer’s block.

Leanne Sowul shares three ways to balance writing and exercise. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira interviews K.M. Weiland for DIY MFA radio. Two of my favourite writing women!

Then Gabriela hops over to Writer’s Digest to help you create a valuable email list for your book.

And then, there were three. Three [of my] columns published on DIY MFA! How to dream your way to fantastic fiction.

Oren Ashkenazi reviews five anachronisms that fantasy needs. Mythcreants

Colum McCann offers essential tips for aspiring novelists. The Guardian

Danielle Burby offers a few tips so you can tell if your manuscript is ready. Pub Rants

Jim C. Hines writes about traveling with depression.

This is kind of sneaky-bad. Marie Bilodeau tells Ottawa to pay its artists. The next day, Ottawa responded, but Marie’s holding out for proof of their good intentions.

Sudbury author, Kristan Cannon, has just published the fourth book in her post-apocalyptic series. Heidi Ulrichsen for The Northern Life.

Jason Guriel: what happens when authors are afraid to stand alone. The Walrus

Andrew Wilson boggles at the persistence of fake news regarding Agatha Christie’s one real life mystery. The Guardian

Holly Williams reads the startling sex letters of Joyce, Kahlo, and O’Keeffe. The Guardian

Looks like Netflix’s Anne with an E is the best kind of adaptation. Sophie Gilbert for The Atlantic.

I so want to see this movie. Wonder Woman.

 

Aaaaand, we’re done.

Come back on Thursday for some thoughty, won’t you?

Be well until then.

tipsday2016

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, April 30-May 6, 2017

A little silly, a little serious, and a whole lot of inspiration. Curated just for you!

Finland’s May Day frolic. This is Finland

Kristina Marusic: how it feels when you’re queer [as fuck] but your relationship looks “straight.” New Now Next

Sabrina Marandola reports on how parents and teachers launch a petition to change Quebec’s history curriculum. CBC

Pegi Eyers answers the question, what is cultural appropriation? (With tonnes of resources!) Ancient Spirit Rising

It’s okay to be smart: why are we the only humans left?

 

Jasmin Fox-Skelly warns that as global warming melts the ice, dormant and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are waking up. BBC

Erica Cirino: scientists discover that beeswax-eating worms are the secret to breaking down plastic. National Geographic

Hearst Digital Studios produces a powerful #survivorloveletter, from survivors, to survivors.

How general anxiety disorder is linked to emotional abuse. Daily Health Post

Kristin Wong examines how happy people complain. Science of Us

The surprising solution to the impostor syndrome. Lou Solomon—TEDxCharlotte

 

Jill Suttie says that taking a relaxing lunch break is good for you. Mindful

A BC professor’s sleep trick garners attention from Oprah, Forbes, and The Guardian. CBC

Alice Dreger: what if we admitted to children that sex is primarily about pleasure? Pacific Standard

The Oatmeal: you’re not going to believe what I’m about to tell you. About awesome brain science-y stuff and your power to put your amygdala in it’s place.

Rae Paoletta reports on the first sound from the creepy void inside Saturn’s rings. Gizmodo

Christianna Reedy: new evidence about a cold spot in space could support the case for a multiverse. Futurism

Just because it was May the 4th (be with you): was Star Wars really in a galaxy, far, far away? Phil Plait, Bad Astronomer, for Blastr.

Amanda Ruggeri introduces us to angel roofs: the medieval marvel few people know. BBC

Cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon by Alice Kristiansen and Jessie Marie Villa

 

Stanley the singing Airedale talks to his mom on the phone.

 

And that’s how we pop your mental corn.

Just a wee reminder, I’ll be away this weekend, and so I’ll see you next Tipsday with a new batch of informal writerly learnings.

Be well until then, my writerly friends!

thoughtythursday2016

How to dream your way to a great story at DIY MFA

There’s this thing I do over at DIY MFA. It’s a semi-regular column called Speculations all about fantasy and science fiction.

dreams

 

This is my third column, on sleep and dreaming. Come on over and visit. There are a lot of great columnists on lots of different genres and topics. Plus, Gabriela has a tonne of great resources, a podcast, courses, and other tasty writerly goodness for you to check out.

I have a little anecdote to share with respect to dreams and writing.

It has to do with this little tip:

  • Sleep on a creative problem. Similarly, if you’re stuck on a scene or a plot point, ruminate calmly on it before you sleep. Even if you don’t dream up a solution, your mind will be working on the problem and when you head back to the page, the answer might just appear. Like magic.

So it happened, just the other night.

I’d just finished writing and posting my Next chapter update and went to bed thinking about the short story I’m hoping to write this month. I had an idea that’s been simmering since January.

That night I had a dream that, taken at face value, had nothing to do with my story idea. Except that it did in that weird way dreams have. And now I have three quarters of the story sketched out in my moleskine. I just have to figure out an ending that will work.

It makes me furiously happy when my dreams cooperate with the muse. Or maybe they’re scheming. Whatever they’re doing, it works. Like magic.

 

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 30-May 6, 2017

Pleased as punch to present your informal writerly learnings for the week … and a little too fond of alliteration 😀

K.M. Weiland continues her most common writing mistakes series with part 59: overly complex plots. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate helps you write in an authentic historical voice.

Jess Lourey guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog: pantser or plotter—deciding which can save your writing life.

Then, Anne Carley guest posts: going public by design. Are you clear on your writer persona?

Orly Konig Lopez: how to handle accolades. Writers in the Storm

Fae Rowan shares eight easy ways your characters can show love. Writers in the Storm

Julie Glover teaches you to embrace your authentic writing voice. Writers in the Storm

Greer Mcallister says, yes, your novel has a message. Writer Unboxed

Sonja Yoerg rattles the cup for blurbs. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass writes of spells, palls, and poisoned apples (and what they mean to your characters). Writer Unboxed

Anna Elliot: bad writing habits and how to break them. Writer Unboxed

Writing coach Michael Hauge returns to Writers Helping Writers: if you want to grow as a writer, transform your critique group.

Janice Hardy shows you six ways to identify a contrived plot. Fiction University

Following up on her post about experimenting with minimalism, Bess Cozby offers three tips for trying it out yourself. DIY MFA

G. Myrthil shares eight reasons adults read young adult novels. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira interviews Katherine Neville for DIY MFA radio.

A rant about men who write women as sexual objects. Hilarious. And sad, because it’s true 😦 But alas! The creature grows degenerate.

Sarah Gailey: American history is a work of fiction. Tor.com

Helena Kelly exposes the many ways in which we are wrong about Jane Austen. Literary Hub

Sarah Lyall is home alone with the ghost of Emily Dickenson. The New York Times

General Leia Organa is the hero we need now. Anne Theriault for The Establishment.

David Emery shares the real deal on Peter S. Beagle’s ongoing legal battle. Snopes

Gail Harding reports that Diana Gabaldon may include PEI in a future Outlander novel. CBC

Because Twin Peaks is coming back:

 

Dan Auty takes a look at the new Twin Peaks trailer. Gamespot

Emily Asher-Perrin reviews episode 2 of Doctor Who: “Thin Ice” is the best Doctor Who episode in years. Tor.com

Vince Mancini praises Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2. UPROXX

The Dark Tower trailer 🙂

 

Then, Katharine Trendacosta unpacks all the secrets in the trailer for i09.

Aaaaand—The Defenders trailer. Netflix

 

Wowsers! I hope something in this mix gave you the tools you needed to take your craft to the next level, or at least the next version. Writer 1.1, anyone? I have to admit, some days it feels like writer 0.1 for me 😛

Be well until thoughty Thursday arrives to pop your mental corn (A.K.A. inspire you) 🙂

tipsday2016

The next chapter: April 2017 update

Greetings, writerly friends 🙂

Yes, it’s that time of the month again—no, not that time—it’s time for my next chapter update. Yay (flailing Kermit arms)!

Ok, maybe that’s a little too enthusiastic.

That’s what spring does to me, though.

Even though we haven’t had a particularly warm spring up here, the fact that there are more hours of sunlight each day really helps me find my energy.

And what do I do with that energy? I overcommit. That’s what I do.

What does that look like in 2017? Let’s see …

  • work full time;
  • write as much as I can, evenings and weekends;
  • produce the monthly Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter;
  • serve on the Canadian Authors Association Program Committee (and various sub-committees); and
  • sign up for Writing the Other with Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford (yay—it’s awesome, but I can’t keep up with the assignments and so feel crap about it).

Truly, though Writing the Other is one of the bit of writerly awesome to happen this past month. It continues through to the middle of May, so I’ll save the deets for a future weekend wrap-up post. Suffice it to say for now, though, that I would recommend the course to anyone.

A second is my continued semi-regular SF&F column with DIY MFA, Speculations. As I mentioned last week, I’ll be posting to share those columns on the blog. The next one should be coming up Tuesday, and it’s a dreamy one, so stay tuned 🙂

A third bit of awesome was that I participated in was the Sudbury Poetry Project. April was National Poetry Month, after all. When Kim Fahner, Sudbury’s Poet Laureate put out the call, I wrote a new poem and submitted it.

thiswintersky

“this winter sky” was inspired by what has been a particularly gloomy winter here in Northern Ontario. I believe that almost everyone who lives in the northern hemisphere experiences some degree of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and those of us predisposed to depression tend to feel the effects of SAD more than others.

More than, that, though, the poem is about the hope that blossoms when one recovers, or learns to live with, mental illness. This is why I was honoured to have the poem posted outside the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) which is a safe place where survivors of mental illness and consumers of mental health services can gather, learn, and heal.

And now, onto the writing progress report 🙂

April was a decent month. I finished my latest revision of Initiate of Stone. Unfortunately, it only reduced the overall word count of the novel by a few thousand words 😦 I was, however, after a short respite, move on to Apprentice of Wind.

I also revised two short stories for submission to a contest and an open anthology call. We’ll let you know how that goes in the future.

All the new writing in April was once again on this blog.

AprilProgress

Here’s how the numbers break down:

  • 79,078 words revised on the Ascension series, or 113% of my 70k goal.
  • 4,105 words of short fiction revised, or 164% of my 2,500 goal (makes up for not revising any short fiction in the last two months).
  • 6,098 words written on the blog, or 92% of my 6,600 goal.

That’s a total of 83,183 words revised and 6,098 words written. That’s not counting my column for DIY MFA, which I really don’t have a place for on the tracking sheet.

What’s up next: I’m going to continue work on revising AoW, which I don’t anticipate will be finished until next month. Revision will yield (I hope) to writing with respect to short fiction. We’ll see how everyone likes the new plan for the blog.

Next week, I’m heading down to Story Masters in Toronto, with Donald Maass, James Scott Bell, and Christopher Vogler, but that, of course, means that there will be no post next weekend. I’ll have another wrap-up post to share on this lovely event later in the month.

And then we’ll see. This writer’s life is never boring, that’s for sure.

Until next I blog, be well, be kind, and stay stong, because this winter sky will always yield to the light.

The Next Chapter