Finding Inspiration

January: Finding Inspiration to Overcome Writer’s Block

How do you deal with writer’s block? That’s probably the most frequently asked question of any author and their least favourite to answer. I decided to tackle finding an answer in 2017 by drawing inspiration from other forms of art. Once a month I’ll be trying something different and discussing the results.

For January, I attended Shen Yun 2017, a world-class music and dance production that draws on China’s unique heritage.

There is definitely something for everyone in this one production. Whether you are interested in history, culture, myths or lore, current events, music or dance, it’s all there. Two hours are jam packed with a wide array of emotions, from humour to amazement.

Vibrant costumes and special effects really make this performance pop. My personal favourite scene being Yellow Flowers. The technical precession of the dancers is undeniable. I have never seen anything that can compare.

Attendees can expect to enjoy an amazing show, no matter which ticket they purchase. There isn’t a bad seat in the house. I believe it is that attention to every individual in the audience that makes Shen Yun 2017 extra special.

If you’ve seen a Shen Yun performance before, don’t worry, they change it every year. I’m looking forward to a brand new performance in 2018.

The only real criticism of the show I have is that in my opinion there was a bit of a political agenda attached to a couple of the scenes. While that doesn’t necessarily take away from the enjoyment of the production as a whole, it may bother some viewers.

Are you wondering about the results? I came home with an imagination swirling. So many ideas crowded my thoughts, I couldn’t sleep. Instead, I sat down and wrote more than I had in the past month, in one night.

January’s visit to Shen Yun 2017 was, in my opinion, a success! Now to keep that creativity flowing. In February, I’ll be taking in the ballet with a few friends. I hope you’ll join me for those results next month!

Thanks for reading The Write Information.

Book Reviews, Diversity

Sisters of a Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology

Speculative fiction is a term I’m still grappling with as a reader in terms of its scope. It often includes Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but can include one-off stories as well that don’t neatly fit into any particular category. Sisters of the Revolution, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, is a collection of 29 such stories published just two years ago. Each one is written with a blend of feminism and either sci-fi, fantasy, or horror. Several of the authors included, like Kelley Eskeridge, Nnedi Okorafor, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Octavia Butler, made it an obvious choice to read.

Each one has a different approach to feminist stories within speculative fiction, from women’s words being so powerful she has to be locked up, to adult children imprisoning their mothers, to horror in theater, to feminist power being developed through intentional legend-creation, to the power of words used by women to garner respect, to scientist stories, and more. It deals with the relationships between women and other women, women and their families, women and employment, and women and society and expectations.

Some are excerpts from longer stories, but most are considered short stories in their own rights. They alternate between horrific, far-fetched, and surreally too close to what could happen for comfort. The contemplation of what it means to be a woman in different ways, if subtle changes were made to our experiences of the world, makes most of the stories quite engaging. Unfortunately, there were a few that were far too speculative for my liking – without much grounding in the real world or the realm of possibility.

The snapshots into these self-contained worlds are fascinating. One of the awesome things about this collection is that each author in here has such a distinct style. I always worry about repetitiveness with collections of short stories around a common theme, but this absolutely works. The breadth of what is considered speculative definitely helps with this aspect. Some are quite long, others are pretty short, and the rest are right in the middle for length, and each one is so distinct from the others in both style and content.

By and large, they were well-developed so that it seemed that each story was complete, without needing much more context than was provided. There were a couple that had hardly any context, making it difficult to follow. Mostly, though, they were pretty good with providing the right kind of details surrounding internal struggles, the environment the women waded through, and their relationships. They felt, mostly, like complete and complex characters with fully developed motivations, fears, loves, interests, and reactions to the uniqueness of their situation.

This is one of the better anthologies I’ve seen in terms of consistency in quality – yes there are a few I didn’t care for, but overall, I felt totally immersed in the stories, in the message, in the characters, and wanting to read more. For me, that says enough to recommend it to others. And maybe the ones I didn’t like would be adored by others.

Book Reviews, Diversity

Poems New and Collected by Wislawa Szymborska

Wislawa Szymborska was a poet and essayist born in Poland in the 1920s. As you can imagine, her life was not always easy. At the time of WWII, a number of Polish people were forced into labor by the Nazis, which she was able to avoid by working as a railroad clerk. During the time of the occupation, she had to study in secret and also started doing art and writing. Once the war ended, she published a number of writings. She was also part of Poland’s socialist party, but only for maybe twenty years before denouncing her earlier political writings. Even so, she was active in both writing, book reviews, other literary involvements, and political activism. She eventually won the Nobel Prize for Literature.  

This is a collection of poems written over a 40-year span, from 1957 to 1997. Some were new at the time of the publication; others, of course, had been around a while longer. Other books came after, even one that was posthumously published in 2012, not long after her death. Her poems typically follow free verse, but also have (in English) a number of rhymes or alliterations.

She didn’t shy away from politics, philosophy, theology, the harsh and the beauty of everyday life, but also shows a love of nature, and of music, and of life. It is clear she loved writing and loved words, the sound of them, the feel of them, and how it could make people think and feel. While there isn’t a specific place in mind, in terms of geography, it’s more a map of humanity and our dark, lovely, terrifying, gorgeous, funny nature. Her poetry sheds light on all of them and shines it quite well. They expose us, for better or for worse.

Some poems are utterly gorgeous; others devastatingly simple but oh-so-deep. She can bring the reader right to the place or the feeling or the sound she is writing about in every poem, without fail. If you’re a fan of poetry, Szymborska is a must read.

Finding Inspiration

Finding Inspiration to Overcome Writer’s Block

 

Writer’s block is the bane of almost every author to some degree. They sit silently, staring at the blank white sheet in front of them. It doesn’t matter if it’s a monitor or piece of paper, it’s all the same. Their voices are silenced and no words form. I have heard tales of some who have written the same line a thousand or more times before giving up to frustration. If not put in check, writer’s block can plague an author to the point of creative death.

So, how do you stop it? How do you deal with writer’s block? That’s probably the most frequently asked question of any author and their least favourite to answer.

While I’ve been fortunate enough to have never experienced writer’s block myself, towards the end of 2016 I was feeling a certain amount of lethargy when it came to my writing. That wasn’t where I wanted to be mentally or professionally, so I decided to try something new.

I have always believed writing to be an important form of art. That belief is exactly what started me thinking that 2017 could be a year of inspiration drawn directly from other arts.

The idea is simple: Once per month I plan to attend a new and exciting artistic experience. The hope is the event will kick-start my creative juices and elevate my writing to new levels of enthusiasm. The best part – I plan to take you with me by reviewing each unique engagement and exploring what it did for my author state of mind.

I am over-the-top excited to get started on this project. In January, I’ll be attending Shen Yun 2017, a world-class music and dance production that draws on China’s unique heritage.

Regardless of the results of my little experiment, I know visiting different arts and cultures will expand my mind in fantastic ways. If I look at it in that light, It’s already a success on a personal level.

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: Glass Girl by Laura Anderson Kurk

“Glass Girl is a story of mercy…vast and unending. Delicately powerful.”
-Darby Karchut, author of Finn Finnegan and Griffin Rising

The ice cold fear I’d felt, not knowing if Wyatt was alive, pressed into the wall with other girls and surrounded by guys who were unspeakably brave, hit my body again in a wave. This was trauma–the gift that keeps on giving.

When Meg Kavanagh finds herself in the unthinkable role of grieving sister, she discovers some harsh truths–parents aren’t perfect, life’s not always sweet, and the dead don’t write back. Her famous artist mom grieves by slowly disappearing, and her dad copes by moving them to a small town in Wyoming.

What she finds in Wyoming blindsides her.

His name is Henry Whitmire, and he shows Meg that the best things in life–like falling in love and finding mercy–require uncommon courage.

From young adult author Laura Anderson Kurk comes a heartfelt story with bittersweet intensity and emotional storytelling.
–Back cover of Glass Girl by Laura Anderson Kurk

This book was lovely. The phrase “delicately powerful” definitely describes it. It is not a light topic, but it is written about in a delicate, sensitive way. It is a book about healing. It really just is a sweet story.

The characters are really wonderful. Meg was very relatable, and I liked the theme of how even though she was sweet she was strong. A lot of time sensitive female characters are shown to be week, but Meg definitely was a strong character. I loved that her parents were not perfect. They were well-rounded individuals who both had their own problems. A lot of times in YA fiction the parents are either horrible or perfect. This showed that the parents are human but still good people. I really liked them. Her friends were also great. I really loved Tennyson’s personality and her name! Thannet was one of the sweetest characters that I have read about in a long time. And then there is Henry. Henry is amazing! He is sweet and caring, and basically every heterosexual girl’s dream guy. I loved reading about him. There were a few times that I felt like he wasn’t entirely realistic, because he was just so perfect, but I still loved him.

I was also pleased with the writing style. I am generally a bit hesitant to pick up Christian fiction just because of how preachy it can get. This book was anything but preachy. I really appreciated that. The Christianity was there but it was subtle. It proved a point but in a gentle way.

If you are in the mood for a story that is gently powerful this book is for you. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

The 'Write' Information

Looking Forward to 2017

While 2016 was monumental in beginnings and endings for many, this year is shaping up to be one of the most exciting yet for writers and readers alike. I hope to be there through it all bringing you some of the best tips and tricks as well as exciting new reads and an in-depth look at some of your favourite authors, as well as a few up and coming writers.

If you look back through my articles over the past year you will find a lot about live events. Let’s go a step further this year and really detail each type as I bring you, the reader, along with me to every venue I attend. What does this mean for you? Putting it simply, you’ll receive the inside scoop as well as a few new tricks and tips to make every event a success.

As an author, 2017 holds unimaginable potential for me. While I have new books in the works, I am also working on a couple of cookbooks. Look for some recipe love as I plan to share a few of my favourites throughout the year.

That’s not all. Hold onto your hats because during 2016 I tried out various online promotions and I can’t wait to go through the results.

I ended 2016 on a rocky note in my personal life, but that in itself gave me insight into my marketing strategy. My sales had a direct correlation to the amount of time I spent online or rather, in my case, the lack of time I was visually active on social media. Let’s breakdown where our time is best spent in a brand new article series!

Now you have a list of what to expect from me in 2017; I hope you’ll join me next week for another edition of “The Write Information.”