Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Jan 2-8, 2022

Another week, another batch of informal writerly learnings. Enjoy!

LA Bourgeois explains why you should stop using the word “should.” Then, Jeanette the Writer wonders how much you should pay an editor? DIY MFA

Ellen Brock provides her writing guide for intuitive plotters. This one feels spot on for me 🙂

Greer Macallister expounds on your novel’s two beginnings. Only begin. Therese Walsh: recovery from (something that tastes an awful lot like) shame. Donald Maass: gods, monsters, and murderbots. Julie Duffy lists the five Fs you should give while writing. Beth Havey: the power of place. Writer Unboxed

Bad writing habits to drop in 2022. Reedsy

Karen DeBonis says that in medias res is a very good place to start your novel. Then, Joseph Lallo offers some advice about worldbuilding for sci-fi authors: terraforming. Lori Brown is embracing the mystery of deep POV. Writers in the Storm

Elizabeth Spann Craig talks about making mini-plans and mini-goals for the year.

Princess Weekes discusses the women of Jane Austen. It’s Lit | PBS Storied

Jane Friedman says that BookTok is a safe haven for young, female readers. Jane Friedman

Colleen M. Story shares four strategies to help writers focus in a world of distractions. Writers Helping Writers

Sympathy for the #pickmegirl The Take

Chris Winkle explains how writing instructors forgo the most vital fiction lesson. Oren Ashkenazi: Way of Kings shows us the damage meta-mysteries can do. Mythcreants

Guy Kawasaki interviews Julia Cameron, queen of change, creative inspiration, and prolific writer. The Remarkable People Podcast

Is Trinity the “real” one? The Take

Jami Attenberg: rejection gave me a fresh start, a new year. “Writing is holy, as my friend Patricia Lockwood says. It is true that it is hard to make it as a writer, or any kind of artist, for that matter. But if you love to write, you should write forever.” The Guardian

Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Wordsmith Studio Homecoming 2015: What are you reading?

For the best effect, please read the headline of this post with an incredulous tone 😉

WSS Homecoming 2015

1) What are you reading?

Just like I work on multiple project in my writing, I read multiple books, both ebooks and print, cause I kind of have this problem. I can’t stop buying books of any variety (!)

So here’s my current reading list:

  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Although I’m sure it suffers in translation, I’m enjoying this novel immensely.
  • InFusion by Scott Overton. I’m beta reading this SF novel for an author friend. I’ll save my specific feedback for him, but, just so you know, I think it’s great 🙂
  • The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. On finding your calling. It’s kind of serendipitous that I found out about this book back in January.
  • Moon Called by Patricia Briggs. I picked this up last year after seeing Patricia at Ad Astra. I figured I should get off my butt and read it . . .
  • Pain, Porn, and Complicity by Kathleen McConnell. An academic work on SF&F movies and television series. It’s been a while since I dipped my toes in that particular non-fiction pool.
  • Lock In by John Scalzi. I’m listening to this on Audible. Narrated by the inimitable Wil Wheaton.

2) What was your favorite read in the last year (or month, or…)?

My favourite reading of recent recall is A Turn of Light by Julie Czerneda. I rated it five stars, though I haven’t written a proper review. Yet. This is the kind of fantasy novel I love to read. It’s also the kind I write and there were a lot of similarities between Czerneda’s Jenn Nalynn and Ferrathainn Devlin, the protagonist from my WIP. I was enthralled to the end 🙂

3) Do you have a favorite genre?

Yes and no. I favour fantasy novels of any age range, but I also read science fiction, historical fiction, the classics, mysteries, and romance novels (though I must say I haven’t read many of those recently). I try to alternate fiction and non-fiction reading, as well. Again, most on my non-fiction reads tend to be writing craft books, but I also read as a form of research for my various works in progress, and sometimes, stuff that I’m just interested in. I learn something from everything I read, even if I don’t particularly enjoy the book. In other words, I read as a writer.

4) Bend one step further: are there alternative forms of writing or art that you have found inspiring or even dabbled in?

In my “searching” phase of university (the undeclared years) I majored in music and art at different times. Performance anxiety put the brakes on my music career, though I still love to sing. I was summarily drummed out of art class when my professor called me nothing more than an “illustrator.” From time to time, I still sketch, but I’ve honestly never been very good. I’ve sunk all my creativity into my writing for a number of years now. In 2000, I did the crazy, being in between jobs, and auditioned for a Theatre Cambrian production of Hair (Y2K). I sang and danced in that, for what it’s worth 😉

6) Back to your main inspiration: Do you have “mentor” titles for the writing you are working on?

I’ll reframe this in terms of “comps,” or comparative works. As I mentioned above, I learn something from every book I read, so I don’t have any “mentor” titles, per se, though I would identify several novels/authors whose work I aspire to.

  • The above-mentioned Julie Czerneda and her A Turn of Light. I’ve committed to read more by Julie.
  • Juliet Marillier’s Celtic legend inspired Seven Waters series.
  • Guy Gavriel Kay’s novels. Though he writes in a created world, it is based on painstaking historical research. I’m not that dedicated, but I love the stories he writes. He’s actually made me cry in the reading.
  • Sherri S. Tepper. Just anything she writes. I love her ideas. Or should I say lurve?

6) If you didn’t already do this for #4, what music inspires your writing?

Okay, now you’re going crazy. Or you will if I offer up all 963 songs on my iPod (!) Suffice it to say that any music I like is generally something I’ll add to my playlist. I have music from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and the new millennium. I like some pop, a lot of alternative, celtic, and world music. I also have more eclectic selections on CD: The Rites of Spring, Satie’s gymnopedies, The Symphonie Fantastique, Carmina Burana, Gregorian chant, a number of Sequentia recordings (including the Eddas), gamelan music, Tibetan singing bells, shakuhachi flute music . . .

My favourite artists (I’ll pick up just about anything they release):

  • Imogen Heap
  • Tori Amos
  • Sarah Slean
  • Florence + the Machine

7) Have you ever thought of this: what book is your main character reading?

Interesting question. I’ll even answer it.

  • Ferathainn Devlin: Sadly, all of Fer’s reading would be studying for her forthcoming initiation, so all of it would be history, scholarly works on magic, or non-fiction works on herbs and simples, astronomy, and the like.
  • Charlene Kalveras: School textbooks, and, because of what’s happened to her father, true crime.
  • Gerod: Owing to his impoverished upbringing in an environment of medieval feudalism, Gerod doesn’t know how to read. He learns, though.
  • Marushka: She hasn’t had any formal schooling, hopping around the world in a magical hut, so she’s had to teach herself everything. She steals books from libraries and reads omnivorously.

8) Do you have a favorite book, article or magazine for writing advice?

Again, I have several 🙂

  • Writing the 21st Century Novel, Donald Maass. Currently on loan to a member of my critique group. Actually all of Maass’s books have helped me immensely.
  • Any of K.M. Weiland’s writing craft books.
  • Any of Roz Morris’s Nail Your Novel series.
  • And the books that have helped me find my way to the writing life: Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind and Writing Down the Bones; Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write; Heather Sellers’ Page After Page and Chapter After Chapter; Stephen King’s On Writing; Terry Brooks’s Sometimes the Magic Works; Jane Yolen’s Take Joy; and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Wave in the Mind.

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Alrightie, then!

I’ll have a wee Sundog snippet tomorrow about miscellaneous stuff, ‘cause sometimes you need miscellaneous stuff, you know?


Creative connections: On Dala, civic responsibility, and unexpected acts of yoga

This Wednesday past, one of my favourite musical groups, Dala, was in Sudbury.  I watch their web site for local concert dates, because I just love them.  Their pure vocal harmonies and soulful folk really touch me.

Dala at the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre

Dala at the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre

I first discovered them courtesy of the CBC’s Stuart McLean.  They were his musical guests on one of his Vinyl Cafe tours.

On Wednesday, Dala and Adam Crossley performed a free concert as part of the Vale Concert Series at the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre in Bell Park to support the Sudbury Food Bank.

Adam Crossley

Adam Crossley

Here are a couple of articles, for your reading pleasure:

Donation, in cash or food, was voluntary, but I donated what I would have otherwise paid for a ticket.  There are still a lot of people who need the food bank’s services.  Should I ever become one of those people, I’d like to think that others would take an interest in helping me.

It’s a great thing to get out and do something artsy, but non-writing related.  All work and no play makes Mellie a dull girl 😉  I also learned last year that I have to keep my well replenished.  It’s a Julia Cameron thing.

Like any endurance sport, writing is a marathon.  And really, it never stops.  If you continually draw on your creativity, eventually, that well runs dry.  Cameron suggests that you get out and experience the arts as a form of levelling that creative water table.

Art begets art.

On the way out, I saw a group of people in the park doing yoga.  There were letters pegged into the ground by the roadside that spelled out Zenlife.

Zen Life yoga from across Paris Street

Zen Life yoga from across Paris Street

Pretty cool, I thought.

What do you think? Do you have favourite musical groups you like to see?  How do you feel about your civic responsibility?  What about fresh air yoga?  Want to try it?  Already have? What was the experience like?

The best of Writerly Goodness 2012

Well, since I only started blogging (in this incarnation) in March, it’s not been a year yet online, but I’ll give you an idea about what I think has been the best of 2012.

Best movie:  Definitely Cloud Atlas.  I don’t know why, but this movie really had me thinking and feeling.  I know that not everyone shares my inclinations, but Cloud Atlas blew me away.

Kim and I will be going to see The Hobbit tomorrow, but I honestly don’t anticipate that it will impress me as much.  I’ll enjoy the heck out of it, but Cloud Atlas affected me …

Best writing book: (A.K.A writing book porn): The Right to Write.  I’ve had the book on my shelf for years and it wasn’t until the Wordsmith Studio Goodreads group chose it that I actually cracked the cover.  I love Julia Cameron’s philosophy even if I am still struggling with morning pages.  Yum.  Yum.  Yum.

Runners up include Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering and Syd Field’s The Screenwriter’s Problem Solver.

Best fiction: The Hunger Games.  When my Mom read it before I did, I figured I better get around to the dear little thing.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Mind you, Larry Brooks’s 11 part analysis of the book was fantastic too, and made me think that I’d have some substantial writerly lessons to learn from it.

Riding Suzanne Collins’s heals are Hugh Howey’s Wool Omnibus and Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest, both of which I’m still reading, so I’m not sure, strictly speaking, that they count (!)

Best non-writing, non-fiction book: The Happiness Project, by Gretchin Rubin.  Again, still reading it, but it does speak to the control freak in me 🙂

Best writerly experience: The New York comes to Niagara pitch conference.  Fraught, yes.  Learning experience, double-yes.

Best local arts event: Hands down has to be the Launch of Kim Fahner’s The Narcoleptic Madonna, though Jon Bulter’s The LaCloche spirit: The equivalent light exhibit and Scott Overton’s launch of his novel Dead Air are close seconds.  Nor can I forget the 100 thousand poets for change event in North Bay.  Poetic road trips are the bestest.

Best posts
These have been selected due to the number of all-time views.

  1. Do you dress for success?
  2. The cadre … or should that be cabal?
  3. Feminist lunacy from Battle Chant
  4. Why did I call this category Alchemy Ink?
  5. Eight metaphors for persistence and why you’ll want to read this anyway – my very first post!  Awww … you guys 🙂
  6. Character sketches, part 2: Eoghan
  7. Character sketches, part 3: Dairragh
  8. Rethinking my online strategy
  9. Why spoilers are good for writers
  10. An Interview with Kim Fahner


hAPPY NEW YEAR (Photo credit: Helgi Halldórsson/Freddi)

I’ll wait until New Years Day to post on resolutions.  So have a happy New Year all, and thanks a bunch for all of your support!

Virtual hugs!

Writerly Goodness.

Creative connections: On pomegranates, movies, and books

Pomegranate Fruits. Español: Una granada, frut...

Pomegranate Fruits. Español: Una granada, fruto del granado (Punica granatum). Eesti: Granaatõun. Français : La grenade, fruit du grenadier. Русский: Плод граната. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love a pomegranate, tearing into one and slowly devouring every pip over the course of an hour or so.  Inevitably, I wear as much as eat 🙂  There’s something visceral, exotic, and, frankly, erotic about the fruit.  Juices drip, stain fingers, lips, and clothes in a rich purple.

I can see why some Biblical scholars make the argument that it was the pomegranate and not the apple in the garden of Eden.

There’s also an element of the meditative about the pomegranate though.  To eat one, patiently cracking open and tearing apart the fruit, bursting each pip between the teeth, crunching down on the seeds, it takes time.  It takes focus too.  The act of consumption is totally absorbing.  It opens the mind and clears the palate.  It nourishes more than the body.

My assignment for any of you creative types: eat a pomegranate.  Take your time.  Let the act take on meaning beyond the obvious.  Journal it.  Create something from the experience.  It’s pretty cool 😉

Twilight to date and The Woman in Black

Onto movies now.

The same weekend I had my mind blown by the Cloud Atlas, I also had the opportunity to catch up on the Twilight franchise to date.

I’ve only read the first book, and while I did enjoy it, I can understand some of the criticisms levelled against it.  I do intend to read the rest of the series at some point, but I’m in no particular rush to do so.

I saw the first movie a few years ago when it was first out on demand.  I thought it was cheesy, to be honest.  I thought the effects were poorly done, and the whole visual of the sparkly vampire left me … cold.

It just so happened though, that Space was airing New Moon that Saturday, and the movie

Cover of "New Moon (The Twilight Saga, Bo...

Cover of New Moon (The Twilight Saga, Book 2)

channels were playing Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn, part 1 on Sunday and Monday respectively.

New Moon was the least enjoyable of the three with all of Bella’s moping.  At least the film makers tried to collapse that into a montage.  I can see how this will be tedious in the reading.  Not looking forward to that.  The continuing story line developed, however, and I enjoyed the depiction of the Volturi.

Eclipse was very much a “middle of the series” movie.  The plot continued to evolve, the characters and their various factions were further defined and solidified in Bella’s world.

Breaking Dawn, part 1, was, in my opinion, the most enjoyable of the three.  It was pretty much non-stop action from the beginning, and yes, I do see the wedding and honeymoon as action pieces, plot-critical events did unfold, if not as dynamically as the “battle for Bella” that makes up the remainder of the movie.

Overall, it wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t have paid to see any of them in the theatre.  Sorry for the heresy.  Just sayin’.

Also watched The Woman in Black that weekend (yes, it was a barn-burner of a weekend for ole Mel) and quite enjoyed it.

I liked the atmospheric gloom and suspense, the mystery, and in particular, the movie’s ending.

*Spoiler alert*

Although the young lawyer manages to figure out the impetus of the ghost’s rage and the reason she abducts and murders children, and although he does what many ghost stories of the past have taught us, that is to right the wrongs of the past, the spirit of vengeance is not appeased.

Instead, she does not forgive, and kills the young lawyer and his son.  Though this turns out to be a kindness, as the family is reunited with the predeceased wife and mother in death, it is clear that the titular character will not end her predations.

I like it when my expectations are turned on their collective ear 🙂

Disappointments that I’m not sure what to do with

I have to get this out.

I’ve read a couple of books recently by authors I’ve met and admire precisely because they’ve accomplished what I have yet to do, and that is publish.  Cover blurbs and positive reviews aside, despite the careers these books have launched, I found myself disappointed.

For that reason, I will not disclose the names of the authors, nor the titles of the books.  And don’t bother parsing my Goodreads account.  You won’t find them or their reviews there.  I don’t put all the books I read on GR.

I think it comes down to poor editing.

When I come across a clear error that was not caught by author or editor, and that repeats several times over the course of the novel, it ticks me off.

When a character’s name changes several times, I’m (I think understandably) peeved.

It pulls me out of the experience of the novel to a degree that robs me of my enjoyment of the book.

Other issues: the plot of the one was not particularly inspired, came across as episodic, and left me wanting more.  In a bad way.  The plot of the other was truly epic, ambitious, and had so much potential that the author failed to realize that I again found my teeth clenching in consternation.  Point of view issues also plagued one of the two books, making me remember why I’ve sworn never to write a novel in a truly omniscient POV.

I read all kinds of books and I try to learn something about either the art or craft of writing from each one.  Sometimes the lessons are more in the way of what not to do.  I’ll take ‘em.

Never stop reading, writing, watching movies, or engaging in the arts in your community (real and virtual).

You never know where the most important gems will be unearthed.

Cover of "The Right to Write: An Invitati...

Cover via Amazon

Coming soon: Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write (yes, Kasie, I’m reading it and will post on GR post hasty); An Interview with Kim Fahner; blogging the Launch of The Narcoleptic Madonna, and more!

This is Writerly Goodness, signing off.

Stay well everyone, and enjoy your “end” (what’s left of your weekend by Sunday).