Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 4-10, 2018

Your informal writerly learnings for the week, gentle reader 🙂

Marisa de los Santos is writing through the rough parts. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass expounds on high drama and heroism. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Craft: proving your protagonist has what it takes. Writer Unboxed

Jeanne Kisacky discusses the ups and downs of the supporters in a writer’s life: a well-deserved expression of gratitude. Writer Unboxed

The island of misfit characters. Where intriguing characters go when they’re … not quite right. Kathryn Magendie on Writer Unboxed.

James Scott Bell: garlic breath for writers (AKA bad first pages). Writers Helping Writers

Angela Ackerman explains how to raise the stakes by making is personal. Writers Helping Writers

A.K. Perry begins a new series on signpost scenes with the disturbance. DIY MFA

Elisabeth Kauffman answers a question about character motive in her new series, ask the editor. DIY MFA

Sierra Delarosa lists five grammar mistakes writers should avoid. DIY MFA

Peter Selgin guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog: how your story’s opening foreshadows (intentionally or not) what’s to come.

L.L. Barkat, who bid farewell to blogging years ago on Jane Friedman’s blog, returns to explain why blogging may no longer be such a bad thing anymore.

Chuck Wendig responds to Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s tweet defining art and entertainment. Terribleminds

Kristen Lamb: how story forges, defines, and refines character.

Julie Glover asks, are you sick and tired of editing your novel? Writers in the Storm

Oren Ashkenazi explains why the term “Mary Sue” should be retired. Mythcreants

Nina Munteanu says, write about what you know.

Sudbury Writers’ Guild member and vice-president Vera Constantineau is interviewed on Morning North about her new fiction collection, Daisy Chained. CBC

Nnedi Okorafor: science fiction that imagines a future Africa. TED Talks

Leah Schnelbach wonders, how could I forget the liberating weirdness of Madeleine L’Engle? Tor.com

Katy Waldman rereads A Wrinkle in Time after a childhood spent enthralled by Madeleine L’Engle. The New Yorker

Alison Flood reports that Shakespeare may have annotated his own source for Hamlet. The Guardian

Be well until Thursday, my friends!

tipsday2016

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 9-15, 2017

And here we go with another batch of informal writerly learnings 🙂

Sophie Masson expounds on the joys of writing in an unfamiliar setting. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Craft says you need to earn the backstory by raising a question. Writer Unboxed

Becca Puglisi teaches subterfuge in dialogue. Writers in the Storm

Jenny Hansen shares … a story of balls. Writers in the Storm

Chuck Wendig: so, you’re having a bad writing day. Terribleminds

Roz Morris stops by Writers Helping Writers to improve your suspense in stories with … the big tease.

Angela Ackerman looks back: why we must invest if we want a writing career. Writers Helping Writers

Janice Hardy continues her birth of a book series: creating the characters. Fiction University

Kristen Lamb explores the creative benefits of being bored.

Terri Frank joins the DIY MFA team: five ways to use the library to nurture your reading life.

Gabriela Pereira stops by Jerry Jenkins’ blog to teach us how to write dazzling dialogue.

Then, Gabriela interviews Ann Kidd Taylor for DIY MFA radio.

Gary Zenker returns to DIY MFA: how to get the most out of a critique.

Elise Holland offers five poetic tools to enhance your prose. DIY MFA

Jane Friedman explains how to pitch agents at a writers’ conference.

Chris Winkle lists seven ways to bring characters together. Mythcreants

Nancy Kress looks at the science in science fiction: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Tor.com

Richard G. Lowe Jr.: how better world building will keep you out of trouble. AutoCrit

Brandon Taylor: who cares what white people think? Literary Hub

Emily Van Duyne wonders why we’re so reluctant to take Sylvia Plath at her word? Literary Hub

Jane Austen comments on love and happiness. Oxford University Press.

 

David Barnett: how traditional British folklore is benefiting from modern culture. The Independent

Emma Watson interviews Margaret Atwood about The Handmaid’s Tale. Entertainment Weekly

Nancy Kress shares seven things she’s learned so far … Writer’s Digest

Karen Grigsby Bates: how Octavia Butler wrote herself into the story. NPR

Charles Pulliam-Moore reports that after four years in negotiation, HBO and George R.R. Martin are producing Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death as a series! i09

Marc Snetiker gives us a first look at A Wrinkle in Time. Entertainment Weekly

Charles Pulliam-Moore: the reason publishers rejected A Wrinkle in Time is the same reason Ava DuVernay is making the movie. i09

And Cheryl Eddy shares the A Wrinkle in Time trailer! i09

It’s been an exciting week for series and movies. So looking forward.

Come back on Thursday for your weekly dose of thoughty!

Until then, be well.

tipsday2016

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 3-9, 2016

Some very interesting posts and articles this week 🙂

K.M. Weiland continues her most common writing mistakes series with part 52: stagnant story conflict. Helping writers become authors. Becca Puglisi guest posts later in the week with four ways to choose the right story setting. Kate returns with more lessons from Marvel: how to transform your story with a moment of truth.

Must you have conflict in every scene, disaster in every act? Roz Morris says, yes, and no. Nail your novel.

Kathryn Craft shares ten ways to add a spark of fire to your fiction. Writer Unboxed.

Donald Maass explores how to stay ahead of yourself . . . and your reader. Writer Unboxed.

Heather Bouwman writes (in the) happy middles. Writer Unboxed.

Annie Neugebauer begins a new series for Writer Unboxed. The query letter, part one: the pitch.

Sara Letourneau looks at the protagonist-antagonist relationship in DIYMFA’s developing themes in your stories series.

Data mining reveals the six basic emotional arcs of storytelling. MIT Technology Review.

“The six basic emotional arcs are these:

A steady, ongoing rise in emotional valence, as in a rags-to-riches story such as Alice’s Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll. A steady ongoing fall in emotional valence, as in a tragedy such as Romeo and Juliet. A fall then a rise, such as the man-in-a-hole story, discussed by Vonnegut. A rise then a fall, such as the Greek myth of Icarus. Rise-fall-rise, such as Cinderella. Fall-rise-fall, such as Oedipus.

Susan Spann busts some popular copyright myths. Writers in the storm.

Hugh Howey writes about an idea, broken. The Wayfarer.

Shakespeare and music.

 

Underwritten female character: the movie. (Bwahahahaha!)

 

What Mallory Ortberg learned about heterosexual female desire from decades of reading. The Toast.

Ted Ed: What makes something Kafkaesque?

 

Airship Ambassador interviews Colleen Anderson in four parts: part one, part two, part three, and part four.

Jen Doll explains how A Wrinkle in Time changed science fiction forever. One of my formative reads. Who’d a thunk it? Mental Floss.

Shawn Taylor wonders why Hollywood is ignoring Octavia Butler. Fusion.

The New York Times called this guy daring for “daring” to tackle slavery through science fiction. (Includes the author’s response.) J. Hotham for Slate.

Jonathan Barkan celebrates 30 years of Big Trouble in Little China. Bloody Disgusting.

Emily Asher-Perrin: Jupiter Ascending is a chilling look at our future, in more ways than one. Tor.com

Phil and I are looking forward to checking this one out. Netflix’s 1980’s science fiction throwback Stranger Things is must (binge) watch TV. i09

Until thoughty Thursday!

Tipsday

My literary mothers and what they taught me

This post was inspired by a challenge that another friend participated in. That challenge was to write, in a short post, the influence of a single literary mother.

While I found the concept compelling, I also found it restrictive. I have many literary mothers. The gears have been working on this one for a few weeks now and this is the result.


Siobhhan Riddell

I was in grade three and I had just started to write. My first piece was a little essay about my new puppy.

Siobhan was in grade five. She was an artist and she illustrated a dragon slayer fairy tale.

The grade five class’s projects were presented to the grade three class. Siobhan’s drawings found their place in my imagination.Always Sail West

I submitted my first short story to CBC’s “Pencil Box” that year.

The next year, I wrote the Christmas play for my grade four class.

What was I reading at the time?

I was reading comics: Star Wars (for Princess Leia), Dazzler (Marvel), Huntress (DC). I was trying to find compelling female heroes. The writers and artists were men, however.

I also started reading C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, and I, again, was seeking women authors with whose stories I could connect. I tried Zilpha Keatley Snyder (The Headless Cupid, The Witches of Worm), Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (The Witch Saga), Joan Lowry Nixon (The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore), and Lois Duncan (Summer of Fear, Stranger with My Face, and, of course, I Know What You Did Last Summer). While Naylor came close to becoming a literary mother, her work didn’t stay with me.

At the time, across the street from my house, were a convenience store (comics) and a branch of the public library. They were an almost daily stop in my routine.

Critical criteria of a literary mother: Her influence has to stay with me. I have to have continued to read or re-read her books, or remember the impact she had on my life in a concrete way.

Madeleine L’Engle and Susan Cooper

It was Madeleine L’Engle’s (then) Time Trilogy that I first connected with. Something inside me said, “This is what I want to write.” She’s technically science fantasy, but it was the first science anything that I’d read to that point.

Susan Cooper came into my life a little later, but again, through the public library. I read her The Dark is Rising series and loved her take on Arthurian legend. This spoke to the fantasy side of my writing persona.

I bought both series when I had enough money to do so. I still have both.

What else was I reading? Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini. A friend was, and still is, very much a fan. The same friend introduced me to Robin McKinley (The Hero and the Crown, The Blue Sword). Both of these were strong influences, though not quite in the literary matriarchy.

There were a lot of other novels I was reading, most thanks to the above-mentioned friend, whose dad had a fabulous classic SFF collection and often encouraged her to offer her patronage to The World’s Biggest Bookstore in Toronto when she visited him 😀

Her dad even set us up with our first D&D books, after which, we spent entirely too much money on the game, but spent years in geeky bliss roleplaying.

R.A. MacAvoy, Susanna Kearsley, Ursula K. Le Guin, and O.R. Melling

When I went to university (Guelph, the first time), I met, through my roommate, her sister, Sue Reynolds, who wrote Strandia. This book was influential on me because it was one of the first ones that didn’t involve a romance in the happily ever after of its protagonist. There were romantic aspects to the plot, but the protagonist chose wholeness for herself rather than her beloved’s proposal in the end.

Also through my roommate, I was introduced to Welwyn Wilton Katz. I read just about everything Katz wrote for a few years and she was well on the way to becoming a literary mother, but I didn’t stick with her, or rather, her books didn’t stick with me as much.

I was drafting the story that would evolve into Initiate of Stone during those years. I started keeping a journal, and aside from my course reading, I was heavily influenced by Guy Gavriel Kay. Mary Brown was also a discovery during this period. I loved her ugly duckling retellings.

I left Guelph after two unremarkable years and got a job at the Coles store in Yorkdale mall. Part of me was in heaven and buying up books like mad with my staff discount. The other part of me was unhappy because, in all other respects, the job was an epic fail on my part.

One of my discoveries during this time was R.A. MacAvoy. I started with her Damiano series, progressed with her Black Dragon series, and fell in love with her quirky Lens of the World series. I read several of her standalone novels as well. She was the first author who reflected my ancestry in her characters (Sara the Fenwoman), and the first who wasn’t afraid to introduce cultural diversity in her characters.

I keep going back to Lens of the World periodically, because that series was also written in first person, present, point of view (POV). It was a challenging POV to use, and it’s still a learning tool for me. I haven’t felt brave enough to tackle anything so ambitious myself.

I also discovered O.R. Melling about this time, but I’ll come back to her in a little bit.

After a couple of years of living in and around Toronto, two other potential careers, a couple of failed relationships, and the realization that I needed to finish my degree if I was going to be able to progress as a writer, I returned to Sudbury to finish my BA at Laurentian University.

Susanna KearsleyIt was during this time that my SFF/D&D buddy, after helping me to connect with Mr. Science and both of us marrying our partners, moved away with her husband. She emailed me and said that Susanna Kearsley, author of Marianna, and recent winner of the Catherine Cookson Award, was giving a workshop for the local writer’s group.

Of course, I hopped down for a visit with my friend and took in the workshop. I read Marianna, Splendour Falls, and The Shadowy Horses.

A couple of years ago, I reconnected with her at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC). Her influence on me has been to introduce me to a different genre. When I first met her, it was grouped under gothic, but Susanna’s stories are more paranormal in nature and while romance does feature, it’s not the main focus of her novels.

I took a creative writing course with Dr. John Riddell (Shiobhan’s father) and started to get my stories published.

I also took a course in science fiction and was introduced to Ursula K. Le Guin. The Dispossessed blew me away not only because it was SF written by a woman, but also because of its story structure. I’ve since read the Earthsea series, The Left Hand of Darkness, collections of her short fiction, other shorter novels (Rocannon’s World), some of her YA novels (The Beginning Place), and one of her books on writing craft (The Wave in the Mind).

I keep on picking up her work and reading it. The diversity of her work and the longevity of her career have been what inspire me most about Le Guin.

Finally, toward the end on my degree, I was working on my undergraduate thesis on the YA and MG novels of Welwyn Wilton Katz, Michael Bedard, and O.R. Melling.

I had discovered Melling when I was working at Coles, and kept picking up her books. Mostly, they dealt with magical time travel and Celtic legend. In the series that she had just started (at that time), Celtic legend blended with Native Canadian.

It was the first time I’d seen someone so effortlessly intertwining mythologies in this way. It made me think thoughts. It still does.

Sheri S. Tepper and Diana Gabaldon

I started reading Sheri S. Tepper during my Laurentian years as well. I now have most of her books, even some of the mysteries written under her pen names.

What fascinates me about Tepper’s work is the complexity of her plots and the strength of her protagonists. I never cease to be surprised or amazed at some point in her novels.

Her SF would be characterized as “soft” because of the sociological focus, but I still look to her body of work as an exemplar of what can be done within the genre.

She also writes from feminist and social justice perspectives. Tepper just rocks.Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon came a little later yet. I started reading her Outlander series after Voyager was published. I’m a little over the moon that her books have finally made it to the small screen.

I’ve now read all of her Outlander books and several of the off-series, but related, Lord John Grey books.

One thing I picked up from her was playing with POV. In a novel with several POV characters, I’ve used the same technique that she does, and I use first person, past, for my protagonist and close third person for everyone else.

It was Gabaldon’s genre mashing goodness that hooked me and the quality of her storytelling that has kept me. I was able to attend some of her sessions at SiWC and she is a lovely person as well as a great writer.


I’ve read and met many other women authors, several of them Canadian, and while I’ve enjoyed reading and learned from each of them, no one else has quite made it into the literary matriarchy yet.

I read a lot of male authors as well, but that’s not what I’m writing about here, now, is it 😉

The women I’ve listed in the section headings are the ones I consider to be my literary mothers. These are the women through whom I trace my development as a reader and as an author.

Who are your literary mothers?

Muse-inks

Why did I call this category Alchemy Ink?

I thought it was about time I answered this question.

I was reminded that I hadn’t addressed the issue yet when I read Martina Boone’s guest post on DIYMFA yesterday.  Martina writes:

Writing fiction is alchemy. We can have all the ingredients for a great story and still miss that wow factor that makes it all come together, makes our work transform from words on a page to a living, breathing entity with the possibility to burrow into someone else’s consciousness.

I’ve always thought of writing as a kind of alchemy, a kind of magic.  This might be

My only souvenir of Siobhan’s art is this book cover.

because I write epic fantasy.  Or it might be because when I started reading for pleasure, I started with C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, and Madeline L’Engle.  It could even be my inspiration for writing: the wonderful artwork of Siobhan Riddell.  When I was in grade three, she and her grade five classmates wrote and illustrated their own storybooks.  Siobhan’s was of a knight fighting a dragon.  Classic fairy tale.

And I was hooked.

I wanted to write something, even then, that made people feel the way Siobhan’s storybook made me feel.  That was the kind of magic I wanted.

Much later, I tried out a few of writers’ groups.  One was composed of friends from university: Kim Fahner, Steven Lendt, and Dan McCormick.  I actually proposed the name “Alchemy Ink” to them.  No one seemed particularly keen.

The next was a group of women brought together around the fabulous Si Tranksen.  That group published Battle Chant in 1999 and included Paulette Dahl, Violet Brenner, Louise Lane, Carole Trepanier, and, though she departed before the book project came together, Sonny B.

After that, another group of women writers, including the fae folkstress Dolores Dagenais, Gypsy, and fellow Sudbury Writers’ Guild members, Irene Golas, Margaret Lavoie, and Sue Scherzinger met irregularly to engage in creative stuff.  We didn’t only share our writing, but did cool things like playing with clay.

When the chemistry is right, a writers’ group can be magical.  I’m going to use some of my dreadful learning lingo here, but synergies can develop between the writers, and the creative energy so generated tends to fuel the creative self in wild ways.  Some of my best writing/most productive periods were inspired while I was in writing groups.

This is why I’ve called this category Alchemy Ink.  It’s a kind of substitute for the old writing groups.  Magical things can happen when you share …

But getting back to the writing of fiction, transforming what is in my head and heart onto writing on the page is pure alchemy.  I struggle to create gold, but what I might have is a means to immortality, the other goal of alchemy.  My words, if they’re good enough, will have a life outside of mine.  With luck and diligence, they may outlast me 🙂

Martina goes on to write that she is not a pantser (like me).  For her, the magic happens between the characters, in the backstory, in the execution.  She uses plotting and structure to “make room” for the more magical aspects of her art.

The last word belongs to Martina:

Chances are, that’s the part of storytelling we fell in love with in the first place.

Why did you fall in love with the alchemy of storytelling?  Where does the magic happen for you?

More guardians, more growing up …

I’ve always dreamed very vividly, and in story.  As a child, I was an insomniac, mid-cycle onset.  I’d wake at two or three in the morning and rehearse my dreams until I went back to sleep.  Either that, or tell myself new stories if it wasn’t a dream that woke me.  I told my dream-stories and nightdreams (as opposed to daydreams) to my best friend, Margaret, at lunch and recess.  I dreamed about characters and settings from my favourite television shows and movies: G-Force and Star Wars mostly.

Resources for dreaming and creativity:

I was also big into comics at the time.  Not the typical ones.  I wasn’t fond of the male heroes, and instinctively disliked the groups, in which the women were neither strong, nor independent.  I gravitated toward Wonder Woman, Huntress, Batgirl, and other solo heroines.

Unfortunately, my waking daydreams were also populated by Greg Evigan from “BJ and the Bear,” and Shawn Cassidy from “The Hardy Boys Mysteries.”  For better or worse, Margaret shared in all of that too, and was a regular reader of my stories.

Though I was a huge “Doctor Who” fan, Tom Baker never made it into my dreams, go figure.  More recently though, David Tenant’s made the short-list 🙂

I read C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Madeline L’Engle, Zylpha Keatley Snider, and even checked out Pierre Burton‘s The World of OgJoan Aiken, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Lois Duncan, and Joan Lowery Nixon joined the list soon after.

Grade six was a rough patch.  Though I’d auditioned and made it into the choir, which was great because I liked to sing, the practices were after school, and one day, I was in an unfortunate situation.  **Those of delicate constitution may want to skip this next part.**  I’d gotten my period, always painful and heavy, even then.  Feeling like crap, and on the verge of bleeding through my clothes, I needed to go home.

My teacher came out into the hall where I was at my locker, preparing to leave, while other students walked the halls and the rest of the choir waited in the room, right next to me, and asked me what I was doing.  “Going home,” I said.  With increased volume, she asked me why.  I tried to tell her that my mom needed me at home.  I wasn’t about to tell her, and everyone else, the real reason.  She berated me for my fickle loyalties and tried to bully me into staying.  I committed to the choir and that meant that I had to be at every practice.  Did I want to be a part of the choir, or not?  Cornered like that, I had no choice.  I quit.  Once again, I was left out of the performance, and the choir, for the rest of the year.

Though I was terribly upset, there was no going back.  I would not be allowed to explain the situation in private.  That wasn’t my teacher’s style.  I wasn’t about to reveal my shame to the class, and wasn’t going to ask my parents to intervene for the same reason.  So I remained embittered for the year.  It was my own fault.  I hadn’t learned the trick of standing up for myself yet.  At the time though, it felt like persecution.

It was another low point on the teacher graph for me.

English: A bottle of Liquid Paper correction fluid

English: A bottle of Liquid Paper correction fluid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That same year, someone I thought of as a friend asked to read my stories, and flattered, I consented.  She used an entire bottle of Liquid Paper to obliterate my words.

Another guardian, another lesson: even your friends can’t be trusted.

As you can see, I identify with the hero/heroine’s journey, writer’s journey, or whatever else you’d like to call it.  My guardians have been the defining, or crisis, moments in my creative development.  In that respect, I’m a slow learner.  It took me years to realize that what these people did to me, or to my work, had nothing to do with its value or my own.  I let those formative lessons inform my inner critic (the worst guardian of them all) and it told me that I was worthless.  I believed it for far too long.

So again, I will ask you to share guardian experiences.  Who has put a roadblock in your creative path?  What lessons did you learn?  Did you find a way to overcome your guardians?