Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wednesday Writing tips from Neil Gaiman

At school and library visits, I almost always get questions about how to be a better writer. I don't consider myself an expert, but I do love talking about this sort of thing.

Needless to say, I got pretty excited when I saw this video in which excerpts from a Neil Gaiman podcast are paired with clips from films about writers. He says ALL THE THINGS that I've said or wished I'd remembered to say to would-be writers, and he expresses it all so much more eloquently than I ever could.

I found the video here -- Neil Gaiman's advice to aspiring writers -- and I really just wanted to put it in a handy place on my blog so I can direct new writers to it. It's really quite wonderful.

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday Favorites: good endings

My three Spring reality competition shows have ended, and weirdly enough, I found myself most enamoured with Dancing With the Stars. (And I wouldn't have seen any of it had my dad not lured me into watching when I visited TN.)

The last time I cared about DWTS was when Evan Lysacek was competing, but I have to say this field was so much stronger. And yes, I totally got sucked into Meryl and Maks.


Adored this tango!

And their freestyle was lovely.

Whether or not M & M are involved in real life**, I'm truly grateful for the romantic intensity of their dance partnership. They were magical together.

**But I totally wouldn't complain if they DID marry. And had two burly boys, each nicknamed "Bear."

[Cross-posted to Livejournal]

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tea and a book . . . DOUBLE FEATURE

April turned out to be a very busy month, and thus no "Tea and a book" post. I'd still like to briefly mention my April recommendation, but I'll compress the details into a visual:

If this photo gives you a happy tingle, then you certainly must read Claire B. Dunkle's 2006 YA novel, The Hollow Kingdom. It's an excellent book in its own right, but methinks those who pined for David Bowie as the Goblin King in Labyrinth might find it especially satisfying. Dunkle (author of one of my favorite ghostly books, The House of Dead Maids) somehow manages to make an impossible romance not only believable but very poignant.

And check this out: a Goblin tea blend from Adagio!

And just for fun, here's the As the World Falls Down clip from Labyrinth.

(You know you want to click that link!)


Now on to the May book recommendation!

The Secret Hum of a Daisy, by Tracy Holczer

I've been waiting to read this book for years! I met Tracy Holczer at my first LA SCBWI conference way back in 2008. She's one of those enviably beautiful and talented people who's also so warm and kind and totally real that you just fall in love with her. Shortly thereafter she let me read the first fifty pages of this story (which had already won Tracy the Sue Alexander Award), and I marveled at her lyrical writing and deft characterization. I also gave some feedback, which no doubt was tragically (or laughably?) unhelpful. I was very green back then. Fortunately, Tracy didn't hold it against me. She went on to finish the book and sell it to Penguin, and now it's on shelves everywhere. And what splendid reviews it has received!

I could babble on forever, but for the sake of brevity I will tell you that it's a book about grief and love and healing and creativity that will bring laughter and tears to readers of all ages. Read a more detailed summary and the first chapter at Tracy's gorgeous webpage.

On to the nom noms . . . in the book the characters enjoy brownies and cookies, and I found myself wondering "is there such a thing as a brownie cookie?" THERE IS! I found this recipe at and went to work. (Keep in mind that my batch only yielded 38 small cookies, not the 70 advertised by the recipe. Also, you will get quite a workout for your right arm as you stir this batter! Maybe I was just doing it wrong, but the cookies turned out quite tasty, so the warning stands.)

Now for tea . . . there is at least one mention in Secret Hum of Earl Grey tea with lemon and honey, which sounds scrumptious. For such a potently chocolate cookie, however, I wanted something strong that would complement rather than compete with the flavor. So I chose Adagio's Assam Melody, a "solid, 'friendly' Assam" that I like to imagine would get nods of approval from both Grace and her grandmother.

And if you were admiring the adorable teacup in the above photo, I can tell you that it's part of the Kelly Rae Roberts collection, and if you click that link I'm sure you'll see some familiar artwork. Go here to shop for a Kelly Rae Roberts product of your own!

And look! Here's another blog post with a tasty recipe to go along with The Secret Hum of a Daisy. Yay!

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Focus objects and written intentions

Last week I experienced Kindling Words West in Breckenridge, CO.

As you can see, our surroundings were sublime.

Our first evening together, all the attendees stated their intentions for the retreat. The mornings that followed began with yoga (optional), a fortifying breakfast (so necessary and appreciated), and an inspiring hour-long talk from Laurie Halse Anderson (brilliant). At the start of each talk, Laurie focused us with a writing prompt, usually about significant objects from our past or present.

When she asked us to journal about an object in our lives that helped us refocus into our writing, I wrote about the various inspirational doodads I've collected or been gifted since I got serious about writing. That was fun, but then I remembered the Brontë poster I brought back from the Parsonage Museum -- Branwell's portrait of Anne, Emily, and Charlotte. As you may know, this painting originally featured the artist standing at the center, but now all that remains of him is the golden column where he later effaced himself.

I face the poster when I'm sitting at my desk, and it's the perfect focus point for a little informal meditation. When I look at that painting, I think of the sisters rambling the moors and scribbling at the kitchen table. I imagine them burning up with a story fever that poverty and loss couldn't extinguish. And as for Branwell -- his tragic self-loathing is a good reminder to be kinder to myself. (The muse responds to deadlines, but not so well to disparagement.)

So, inspired by Kindling Words and Laurie Halse Anderson, I've identified a focus object and pledge to list intentions at the start of each writing day. I hope it becomes a habit.

How about you? What would you choose as your focus object?

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]