Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Proper Care and Feeding of a Writer: Some of the Basics

Caution: you might have one of these strange creatures living in your house. But wait! Before you grab your bug spray, consider the following. Do you know somebody who intentionally writes in the morning, writes in the afternoon, writes in the evening, writes when everybody else is asleep, writes during lunch breaks, or builds a time machine to have more writing time? If you answered yes to one or more of these, this strange organism is a writer.

Tip: Sometimes it's impossible to
tell whether this is a writer on a
good day or a bad one.
You may find these odd creatures flocking like pigeons to coffee shops or curled up in a dark corner like a recluse, weaving a plot or two. No two writers are alike. Sometimes they say peculiar things when they finally defeat writers block. Or maybe they collect silly phrases, like what just came out of your mouth (beware: writers will collect such things).
If you happen to have a writer friend, here are some things you might want to keep in mind:

Yes, writers may be weird, but that’s okay.

If you had the read the same story over and over and over, and it changed with each reading, you might go crazy too! Many writers will even do strange things in the name of research (skydiving, self-defense classes, climbing through windows, staring out the window, etc…). Just let them be. Unless, of course, they’re doing something illegal or something that might cause self-harm.

Writers are readers too.

That means they also have feelings. So before you completely butcher a writer’s story or attack a writer for killing off your favorite character, remember they’ve read their share of heartbreaking books. Besides, if you and the writer wanted a “happily ever after” ending, you both would have picked a different genre. Right?

Writers are hoarders.

They will collect everything you say. Everything you don’t say. Everything you do. Everything you don’t do. So stop avoiding the inevitable. Just be yourself. A writer’s best work comes from copying real life not playacting.

Tip: Cats aren’t the only ones plotting
world domination. Shhh, it’s a secret!

Writers blame things on their characters.

This is perfectly normal. You can blame things on the writer of his/her subconscious all you want. But don’t try to break writers’ abilities to give their characters realistic attributes. Sometimes this means writers allow their characters to make their own choices. Don’t try to debate it!

Sometimes writers need people to or talk at.

If a writer asks to discuss a plot point or character with you, this is great! Some days writers want feedback. Other days they just need to voice their story problems aloud. Even if their ramblings don’t make any sense to you, merely bouncing ideas off you can help them. If you’re not sure whether your writer friends want to talk with or at you, just ask. Writers spend a lot of time inside their own heads, so talking aloud can help them gain a new perspective.

Every writer is different.

There is no one-technique fits all. One writer may like coffee (like me!) while another might like tea (*cough* Faith *cough*). Some writers may find motivation in chocolate, and others may prefer sauerkraut. Hey, it’s possible! Get to know your writer friends. Ask them questions. And stick around for “The Proper Care and Feeding of a Writer: Part 2” coming next month for what not to ask!

Writers, do any of these points describe you? What would you add to this list?
Readers, how crazy do writers really seem? Or is this craziness news to you?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Importance of Poetry: A Journey of Acceptance

Poetry and I have an interesting relationship. For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed prose, especially fantasy and young adult fiction. But I haven’t always enjoyed poetry. In fact, there was a time I hated it. Why? Poetry was confusing, abstract, and (I thought) pointless.

I wondered why readers would want to trudge through something confusing with hopes of deciphering meaning. Wasn’t writing supposed to be clear and to the point? And for goodness’ sake, why did all poetry have to be so structured? If there was anything I didn’t like doing with my writing it was thinking within the box. Coloring in the lines. Conformity.

For years I hated poetry.

My sophomore year of college, I took Children’s Literature where reading and evaluating children’s poetry was a requirement. Of course, before taking the class I knew that there are many types of poetry, but I hadn’t taken the time to read many of them.

Ultimately, I selected “Ballad of the Wandering Eft” from Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night. The poem was short and straightforward, but it was full of imagery and told a narrative. It was a lovely poem. I began to wonder if perhaps not all poetry was bad. I moved on with my life, struggling through classical poetry for several more semesters.

It wasn’t until the spring semester of my junior year that I came to actually enjoy poetry. I was sitting with my friend Faith before Modernism and Postmodernism class when I came up with an idea for a poem. During this semester, I learned that philosophy is ten times more intimidating and baffling than poetry for me (leastwise when it comes to (post-)modern stuff). There’s nothing like good old philosophy to get my mind to work creatively.

I told Faith about my poem idea, becoming more excited as the idea developed. So she encouraged me, saying she’d never seen my so excited about writing a poem before. Which was true. I never had been so excited about poetry.

After class, I rushed back to my dorm room and started researching and scribbling. In the end, the poem turned out to be a mish-mash of movie quotes and some of my own words. The poem made a fun piece of performance poetry for Friday’s Epiphany Coffeehouse (Evangel’s monthly open mic event hosted by Epiphany Magazine staff).
So it was that I came to enjoy writing poetry.
My senior year, I took creative writing and wrote more poetry. Our class even visited the Springfield Art Museum to write poetry based on pieces of art. I wrote three poems based on three separate paintings. My final semester, the poems were displayed in the art museum next to the paintings. You can read more about it in the Springfield News-Leader.

It took a few years, but I went from hating poetry to accepting poems to enjoying and writing poetry. I learned that poetry can be an art form of its own. Since I can’t paint using acrylics or watercolors, I may as well use words.
I learned that poetry comes in different forms, much like prose, and can allow writers to think beyond mere structures. I learned that I enjoy free verse and lots of clear imagery. I learned that poetry can stretch the mind, and being open minded isn’t such a bad thing. After all, you can’t think outside the box, if you don’t at least open the lid a little bit.
In celebration of reading and writing poetry, I’ve included a short, free verse poem I wrote specifically for this post. It’s based on tourism vs. local life in Germany, and I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Book Review: "Stranger Things" by Erin Healy

Some books are easier to review than others, not necessarily because of the book but because of my writing style. I’m used to writing fiction instead of critiques, so I apologize for being a day late on my post. Without further ado, here is my latest review.

Such a captivating cover! I've got
a thing for pretty covers, can you tell?
Book: Stranger Things by Erin Healy
Genre: Christian fiction, suspense
Awards: none
My rating: 5/5 stars
One word description:  Eye-opening
I never win anything during raffles. You can imagine my surprise when I entered an online book scavenger hunt and received signed copies of Erin Healy’s The Baker’s Wife, Afloat, and Stranger Things. Of the three, Stranger Things is my favorite, hence the blog post. You can read my review for The Baker’s Wife here (I gave it 4/5 stars).
I put off reading Stranger Things during the school year because it was labeled as suspenseful, and it didn’t disappoint. I finished the book in two days. When I first started reading it, I didn’t know what to expect. I make it a policy not to read the back of books I own because of their tendency to give away major plot points (Caution: the back of Stranger Things does this).
Proof of my signed copy.
Stranger Things is a fictional story involving a pressing issue in society that we don’t always here about: human trafficking. The books is a reminder of humanity and tragedy, yet there are themes of hope woven throughout the story. Healy creates realistic characters, many of whom are not the kind I would have expected to like but liked nonetheless.
The story was heartbreaking yet inspiring. Heartbreaking because I would never want to see my own siblings in any of the book’s situations, yet inspiring because of how the main characters respond to their crisis. The book not only made me more aware of human trafficking, but also challenged me with the way I treat people, family members and strangers alike. There were so many takeaways from the story, but if had to pick the major one it would be this quote:
“‘If everybody just had one person who cared, everybody would be okay. Just one person.’” 
Because of its dark themes, I would not recommend Stranger Things to anybody under 15. I gave this book 5/5 stars for its eye-opening elements and theme of hope. I would recommend this book to anybody with a sister/daughter/girlfriend and those who enjoy suspenseful and thought-provoking stories.

Have you read any of Healy’s books? What did you think of them?
Ever won anything in a book giveaway? Comment below with the title!