Finding Inspiration, The 'Write' Information

Finding Inspiration to Overcome Writer’s Block – April

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 April, also known as International Poetry Month, I decided it would be fitting to attend a poetry reading event. There were invitations galore in my inbox and I have to admit it was hard to decide which one to try. In the end, other appointments, committee nights and my family life were the main deciding factors. Out of the handful left, I chose the one I felt the most comfortable with and where I knew at least one other person attending.

For anyone who doesn’t know, there is actually a big difference between being a novel writer and a poet. Poetry is much more difficult, at least in my opinion. I am the first to admit, I am not a poet. I am actually of that strange breed that still believes she needs to rhyme the last line when trying to write a poem ~ I’m a poet and didn’t know it ~ comes to mind. In the last year, I have read a few poetry books, but I remain an outsider looking in. I did, however, enjoy the night.

It started off with readings from some well-known poets, followed by an open microphone for any attending poets to showcase their works and finished off with a more abstract form. They all had one thing in common – they made me think. I thought about the words, the author’s meanings and the way they melted together almost in song. Not all were happy and I felt the emotions like a tidal wave I didn’t see come because it was hiding within the words. In short, I fell in love with poetry.

The question of this project is, did it inspire me? The answer is yes. It inspired me to explore different word choices, to open my mind to more possibilities and to write. I wrote about five thousand words later that evening and, while not poetry, it felt spectacular.

Poetry readings are a win for inspiration in my book!

Thanks for joining me and hope you’ll come back next week for another edition of The Write Information.

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshiped by mountain lions…

–back cover of The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but I loved it. It’s now probably in my top three favorite books. It was very original and entertaining.

The writing style was highly unique, because of the bits about the “Indie kids” at the beginning of the chapters. The author has a way of drawing you into the story,  making it difficult to put the book down.

The characters were strong and diverse. Mikey was the point of view character, and he struggled with OCD. I thought that this was a very accurate portrayal of what it is. It did not make OCD out to be a quirk or something cute; it showed how much of a struggle it actually is. Mel is his older sister, who struggled with an eating disorder. Again, the author portrayed this in a very accurate way. Jared was Mikey’s best friend and probably my favorite character. He adds to the diversity by being both gay and heavyset. I think he was my favorite, because he is just such a nice guy, and he is worshiped by mountain lions, which is pretty great too. Mikey had a huge crush on Henna, a girl of a different ethnicity. Which such a diverse cast interesting things were bound to happen.

Everything about this book was interesting and well done. I loved how it poked fun at many common tropes, but I love how the story was still so meaningful. I also loved how things ended up being between Mikey and Henna. I won’t say more because of spoilers, but I thought it was perfect. The main plot was great, but the subplots were also strong and interesting.

I would recommend this to pretty much anyone, and I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Genre of the Month, Recipes

Bangers and Mash

Still a favorite in pubs and restaurants around the world, this British dish frequently makes an appearance in historical novels set in working class England.  It’s a hearty meal, and very easy to prepare.  So if you need a good meal to warm your belly while reading tales of the working class, grab a hammer, suspenders, and these ingredients.

  • 4-6 Beer-soaked sausages
  • 1.5 Pounds of golden potatoes, skinned
  • 1/2 Yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons minced garlic
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • (Optional) Brown or onion gravy, cheese, and/or peas and carrots

Fill a large pot 3/4th’s full of water, and allow to boil.  Once boiling, add the potatoes, cover, and let boil for 30 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.  In a large skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter, then add the onions and garlic.  Sauté the onions until soft, then add the sausages.  Make sure to turn the sausages regularly so they are thoroughly cooked on all sides. Once the potatoes are soft, drain the water, add a splash of milk, and as much butter as you like.  Mash to a fine puree; optionally you can mix in some cheddar cheese or canned peas and carrots at this point.  Spoon a hearty helping of mashed potatoes onto your plates, optionally top with gravy, then add one or two sausages and onions.  Enjoy your warm, filling meal!

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: In Between by Jenny B. Jones

Unlike most kids, teenage Katie Parker never got a fair shot at a normal life. With a mother in jail and a missing-in-action dad, she’s never known what it’s like to truly be loved. Low on options and family members, she’s soon shipped off to a foster home. Now in an unfamiliar town, Katie’s rebellious attitude is at odds with her new family, school, and classmates. And after falling in with all the wrong people at school, things go from bad to really bad after she takes the blame for vandalizing the local performing arts theater.

But in the midst of a dark situation, Katie finds light in the most unexpected places: through her new friendship with an eccentric senior, the commitment of her foster family, and a tragic secret that changed them forever. And as she inches closer to acceptance and forgiveness, she finds that God has been there all along.

— back cover of In Between by Jenny B. Jones

This book caught my attention from start to finish. It was hilarious and heartwarming, with enough action to make it interesting.

I loved that the main character was in foster care because I don’t think that foster kids are represented very well in YA fiction. I appreciated that she didn’t romanticize it either–she didn’t go into a lot of detail, but she didn’t pretend like life is easy for them. I think that she portrayed it well for her desired audience. I also liked that the author was not scared to tackle other tough subjects such as illegal activities. She didn’t sugarcoat what would happen in a situation like this.

The characters in this book were very relatable. I think that most teenage girls could relate to how Katie views the world. Her “eccentric senior” friend, Francis, was one of my favorite characters. I loved the slight bit of cultural difference here, and overall Francis was just lovable. I think that my favorite characters would have to be her foster parents. They were loving and accepting of Katie even though she was determined to make them miserable at first. I loved them even more after learning some of their tragic backstories. Overall it was an interesting and well-rounded cast of characters.

My only complaint is that I felt as if sometimes the author tried a bit too hard with her humor. The book was hysterical, but there were some points that the humor took away from the story, which I thought was annoying at some points.

I also appreciated that despite being Christian fiction it was not a preachy book.

Overall it was a  good read. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

The 'Write' Information

Book Traditions Worth Looking Into – St. George’s Day

I remember the first time I saw another author writing about World Book Day. I was thrilled and shared the post immediately – it was, after all, an amazing idea. Recently, however, I’ve been noticing an increase in the number of different book days that cross my computer screen while I scroll through my social media. I decided to look into them and their origins. To my surprise, I found an interesting tradition in Spain that I hadn’t heard of before.

If you haven’t been told the story of St. George, it is an interesting one, especially for fantasy lovers. A great dragon threatened the lands and, to appease its anger, sacrifices were made of young women. The unlucky lady’s name was chosen by ballot. One fateful day the king’s daughter’s name was chosen and the princess became the offering. One man emerged to save the day. St. George braced all of his courage and might into a thrust of his sword – thus slaying the dragon. Afterward, he presented the princess with a rose from a bush which grew on the spot where the dragon’s blood soaked the soil – a token of his love. The thought of such romance brings a red flush to my face.

St. George’s Day takes place on April 23rd every year and is essentially the same as our Valentine’s Day. Men give their female relatives and partners roses. Women, give the men in their lives books.

Although not a public holiday, if you visit regions rich with these traditions on St. George’s Day you will find markets open selling flowers and books. Expect to find some amazing author signings and book festivals as well.

I don’t know about everyone else, but this sounds like a perfect vacation destination to me. I just added celebrating St. George’s Day to my bucket list. It sounds like an amazing celebration. I wonder how many others there are waiting for me to discover them.

Thanks for reading The Write Information.

The 'Write' Information

Poem In Your Pocket Day

National Poem month is April. It’s only fitting that a poetry inspired event, Poem In Your Pocket Day happens every year. This year it falls on April 27th. Believe it or not, this celebration is unofficially in its 14th year and officially in its 9th year in the United States. Canada joined the celebration in 2016.

So what happens on Poem In Your Pocket Day?

You guessed it. Individuals carry a poem in their pocket. This special day is aimed at not only reading poetry, but also writing it. Participants choose to carry an all time favourite or use one they have created themselves. Throughout the day, the poem is shared, read and enjoyed by whoever comes in contact with the carrier. Those who are lucky may even find a few street teams giving away poem scrolls on downtown streets or in malls.

In the evening it is all about poetry readings. Libraries, local cafes and bookstores join in, hosting a celebration of all forms of verse. I suggest checking out what is available in your area. You may even find some places giving away poetry booklets and bookmarks to attendees.

If you are stuck in front of a computer, don’t worry, twitter uses the hashtag #pocketpoem to accommodate your needs. Share as much or simply read what others have posted. Don’t forget to blog your poems or a tribute to your favourite poets as well.

Why not be daring this year. Poetry is an expression of one’s self. Take the leap and write a few lines. Share them this year with friends, colleagues and family. You may start a brand new tradition. Literacy is contagious – spread the word.

Thanks for reading & remember Books & Quills is always looking for poetry submissions. April 27th is the perfect day to send in your work!

Diversity

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

The Unit is a book which centers on The Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. In the society, set presumably in the not too distant future, women and men of a certain age are expected to have families; if not, they are taken to, colloquially, The Unit. It is essentially a compound where these adults without families are given living quarters, food, comfort and more. In exchange, they are expected to go through human experiments in search of cures for diseases and surgeries to donate their organs – all to benefit people on the outside, people with families.

The story opens with Dorrit, the female main character, who grapples with her new life inside the unit as a fifty-year-old woman. Each of the other people in the unit are also grappling with it in their own ways. Understandably, there are horrors of knowing that this is the place people go to have their biological material harvested or experimented on because they are seen as without family ties and without professional worth in the mainstream world.

Each of the characters, but especially Dorrit, seem accessible and real. Ninni Holmqvist, the author, is thoughtful to flesh out each character’s back story in such a manner that we see the diversity of people in the unit – that in this world, lots of different kinds of people are affected by this referendum. The concept of being childless, single, and in a job that isn’t deemed appropriate for contributing to society at large understandably will have an impact on people in different ways. It speaks of a society that values self-sufficiency until it doesn’t; placing more of an emphasis on taking care of others in a collective manner. The pain those in the unit feel is very real, as is the friendships they forge. As far as the friendship they build inside, which is rather understandable through shared pain and shared experiences, the one main issue I had was wishing for more background on some of the staff who worked in the unit.

The pace of the storyline worked – it isn’t about action, action, and more action the way a number of dystopian novels are these days. Perhaps this is because it centers around people 50 and older with no war to fight. It has more to do with the inner turmoil of the patients there. And even though those in charge strive to make the patients comfortable with free food, lodging, shopping, and gyms, it’s really only material comfort compared to what they go through. It’s a really interesting concept for a plot to make people materially wealthy surrounded by doctors and in a place where they know they are being collected for their biological use for science and others. That it is forced upon them makes it an interesting way to look at our psyches individually and collectively as well as pointing out flawed governmental decisions. Though Dorrit explains what happened in the government to institute such a thing, I would love to know more. The lack of further details, however, lends itself to filling out the details in our own heads regarding the political climate that could have led to this.

For the most part, I found the writing able to make me feel joy with the characters or sadness on their behalf. The only bad thing really was that it seemed to take a while to get to the climax. Everyone seems so resigned to their place there and even in anguish, it was difficult to know when the climax would take place. Holmqvist handled it really well – it seemed natural, even if slow, to give us time to build sympathy for the characters. I personally would have liked the climax to have come a little sooner, but it works for the story.

I’m an avid fan of dystopian novels, so I was happy to discover this through Words Without Borders. The ones, in my mind, that are the best are the ones that seem so plausible they are frightening. This is exactly that type of dystopian. It’s just enough like our world that it wouldn’t seem odd if it happened – only frighteningly devastating. I don’t agree with all the choices the characters made, but I am certain they are made for an impact.

 

The 'Write' Information

Easter Surprises

It’s that time of year again. The birds are chirping and leaves are showing signs of green again. That also means it is time for a certain bunny to hop across your path.

You don’t have to be religious, or a child to enjoy the rabbit’s visit. The only problem is too much candy. So, why not mix things up a bit?

If you are on a budget, this is a trip to the thrift store and dollar store as well as your local bulk food place. Many of these places have books for under a dollar – that’s less than the price of a chocolate bar. Here are a few of my suggestions:

Colouring Books

These make great gifts for both children and adults. Crayons make a nice addition as well.

Puzzle Books

Whether word search or crossword, all ages can appreciate a good puzzle. Add a pencil and good eraser to complete the gift.

Older Books

This takes a bit of searching in used bookstores, but if you look carefully, you’ll find some treasures at a fraction of the cost of books elsewhere. Loved ones will appreciate the time and effort that went into the bunny’s trip.

Snacks

This is where the bulk food store comes in. Make up sealed packages of goodies that can be snacked on while reading. This way you can eliminate the amount of sugar and salt in each serving. Write a poem to add on a bag topper for each.

This is where the bulk food store comes in. Make up sealed packages of goodies that can be snacked on while reading. This way you can eliminate the amount of sugar and salt in each serving. Write a poem to add on a bag topper for each.

Table Placeholders

Turn your dining room table into a library with each guest receiving their own book. The first to the table can have their pick!

Whatever your tradition, there is an easy way to make books a part of it! Thanks for reading. Happy Holidays.

Articles

My New Favorite Camp NaNoWriMo Helper

It’s Camp NaNoWriMo time again, and once more writers around the world are pushing themselves to write every day. While Camp is inherently less demanding than NaNoWriMo itself (you can choose your own goal, for one thing), it’s still a great way to encourage yourself to write more on your NaNovel, or start a new short story, or edit things that have been sitting there gathering dust (real or virtual) since November. But if you are like me, you pretty much only write your personal stuff during NaNo and Camp NaNo. So it can be a struggle to remember to get the words or editing in.

This year I have a new tool that is going to help a lot. In fact, it is the reason I am sitting here writing this article right now.

I’m talking about Habitica. Some of you may already use this. For those of you who don’t, let me explain:

Habitica (formerly HabitRPG) is a way to turn your tasks into a game. You create your lists of dailies, habits (both ones you want to form, and ones you want to get rid of) and to-do’s. You mark them off as you do them. (Bear with me here, I know it sounds like any other tasklist app or website so far.)

What makes this different is how it encourages you to actually do your tasks. As I said before, it’s a game. You earn experience and gold and/or silver for completing tasks, and lose health for not completing dailies, or for doing “bad” or negative habits. As you level up, you begin to gain pet eggs, hatching potions, and food for the pets. You can also join guilds, complete challenges, and most helpful to me, you can join a party.

If you join a party and do quests, when you miss a daily your entire party can be damaged by the boss, not just you. You could end up killing your teammates if you aren’t careful. For me, that is a huge motivator to actually do them. Completing your tasks, on the other hand, deals damage to the boss.

There is much more to say about Habitica, but this is what is important for you to really know why it is such a wonderful thing for NaNoWriMo (and Camp).

Add your goals to your dailies (if it’s a smaller weekly goal during camp, it can easily be marked as a once a week “daily” and if you do it that week, when that day comes around you mark it off). Assuming you are in a party quest, not only are you letting yourself down by not writing or editing, you are harming your team (or at least not helping them).

It’s amazing how much more you are motivated to write when other people are depending on it too!

Genre of the Month, Recipes

Amaretto Cherry Poached Pears

Poached pears have been a favorite dessert for hundreds of years and have been featured in several historical fiction novels.  They are more easily made in autumn when pears are at the height of their season, but thanks to modern grocers we can get canned and sometimes fresh pears year round.  The term “poaching” may be a little intimidating to some, but this recipe is much easier than you might think!  If you want a sweet treat to enjoy while reading a historical novel set in the 16th to 18th centuries?  Grab a powdered wig, hand fan, and these ingredients.  

  • 4 anjou pears, slightly firm
  • 1 cup amaretto
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons cherry syrup
  • Vanilla bean Ice cream

Peal the pears, cut in half lengthwise, and remove the cores.  In a medium saucepan, combine the amaretto, water, and syrup to a boil.  Then, add the pears, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Allow the pears to poach for 25-30 minutes or until the pears are soft enough for a fork to go through easily.  Remove the pears from the mixture and place in desired serving dishes, the return the remaining liquid to medium-high heat and simmer until the mixture thickens.  Pour the syrupy liquid over the pears, add a scoop of ice cream, and enjoy!