So, we finally busted out of Mercury retrograde this week. I don’t know about you, but I definitely felt a creative shift. (If you’re not sure what that’s all about, check out this post where I explain a little about Mercury retrograde.) We’re also having a bit of a mid-winter warm up around here. Though we New Englanders know better than to let our guard down, it’s nice to be able to get outside without quite so many layers on. The scent of spring is on the air and it’s got my imagination stirring.
To help boost your creativity and inspire your imagination, here are this week’s links and picks for all things writerly (and some that are on the fringe, but still worth exploring).
Books I’m Reading:
Last week I finished the final book in Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy, The Magician’s Land, and now I’m having fiction world withdrawal. Often described as Harry Potter for a (much) more mature audience, the Magician’s books are, in my humble opinion, very worthy reads. Yes, they are action-packed fantasy stories that feature sex, violence, and loads of swearing; but there’s more to them than that.
Grossman’s magical world is unique in the way it intersects with ours. As a friend (and fellow Magicians fan) pointed out, Grossman does an excellent job of anchoring his fantasy construct in our modern world without sacrificing wonder or charm. The story is also, at its heart, not about magic, but about becoming yourself. In the same way that J.K. Rowling’s books are really about friendship, the Magicians novels are well-rendered coming of age stories.
I won’t risk any spoilers about this final book in the triology; I’ll just say that I was very impressed with how Grossman wrapped things up – brought them full circle without resorting to 100% neatly tied bows. I’ll also say that despite the heartache readers have to endure throughout the story, the series ends on a hopeful (if unexpected) note. I found that refreshing.
Coincidentally, just as I was devouring the final chapters, SyFy premiered its series based on Grossman’s books. I’ve watched the first two episodes (how could I not?), and I’m still undecided about whether I love it or not. My loyalty to the books is influencing my judgments of the adaptation, which takes a fair number of liberties with Grossman’s world and story. (They even changed the name of one of the primary characters for no apparent reason.) It may be too soon for me to fully enjoy the show. We’ll see.
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Because I’m still hungover from my time at Grossman’s Brakebills Prepatory College of Magic and the world of Fillory, I’m not yet ready to dive into a new novel. Instead, I picked up a novella from my own collection, something I read a while back, but couldn’t quite remember. The Old Country by Mordicai Gerstein is a classic-style fairytale full of talking animals, faerie folk, peasants, and royalty.
I enjoyed being able to recognize many fairytale tropes – the old granny telling a tale to her inquisitive granddaughter, the journey into the forest, the protagonist doing the one thing she was warned against, transformation, the creation of a team of unlikely allies … it was all there; but there were also enough twists (including a surprise ending) that I never felt like I knew what was going to happen next.
My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:
- 8 Questions If You Have Trouble Achieving Your Goals by @JenGresham
- It’s safer to be busy by @pjrvs
- Five simple ideas to cut your blogging time in half by @markwschaefer
- Don’t Worry, It Only Gets Harder by @DanBlank
- BBC – Seriously…10 Women Who Changed Sci-Fi
- How to Abandon Your Outline to Improve Your Story by @sjamesauthor
- The 100 Best Websites for Writers via @thewritelife
- How I Gave Up On the Great American Novel and Got a Book Deal by Ed Tarkington
- Why Story Beginnings and Endings Must Be Linked by @KMWeiland
- Best Practices for Author Facebook Pages and Groups by @kikimojo
- Easing in to Great Writing by @BarbaraONeal
- Why Attitude Is More Important Than IQ by @talentsmarteq
- 5 Awesome Things That Happen When You Build a Personal Brand by @TheMDSBrand
- What Do You Want Your Audience To Remember? by @bernadettejiwa
- How To Be A Successful Author: Smash Through 7 Writing Roadblocks by John Yeoman
Sundry Links and Articles:
Podcast Series: The Elemental Genre
I know I gush rather a lot about the Writing Excuses podcast, but I just can’t help myself. I’m already looking forward to a re-listen of Season 10 which walked listeners through the story creation process from idea to first draft to revision and beyond. This year’s season – Season 11 – is all about the “Elemental Genre.” Here’s how they introduce the idea of the Elemental Genre in the season intro:
The word “genre” has a lot of weight to it. Arguments about whether a particular work is, or is not, part of a given genre are long, and tedious. Season Eleven will not be engaging in those arguments. We’re giving all that a wide miss by adding an adjective, and defining a new term: Elemental Genre.
During 2016 we are going to explore what we write, why we write, and how we write in much the same way as previous seasons have, but our guidepost this year will be this concept of Elemental Genres. In January we’ll stay high-level and firm up the framework. Starting in February we’ll drill down on each of the Elemental Genres, and explore the writing process.
I’m really looking forward to this!
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Free Online Course: Literature and Mental Health – Reading for Wellbeing
This free online course is offered by the University of Warwick and begins tomorrow – February 1st. It’s part of the FutureLearn program that offers “a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.”
Literature and Mental Health – Reading for Wellbeing is taught by Professor Jonathan Bate and Dr. Paula Byrne. Here’s a little bit about the course from the FutureLearn site:
The great 18th century writer Dr Samuel Johnson, who suffered from severe bouts of depression, said “the only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life or better to endure it.”
This free online course will explore how enjoying literature can help us to endure life.
Taking Johnson’s phrase as a starting point, the course will consider how poems, plays and novels can help us understand and cope with times of deep emotional strain. The reading load will be flexible, and you will have the opportunity to exchange ideas and feelings via the online discussions with other learners.
I’m looking forward to exploring these ideas further. Maybe I’ll see you there!
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Finally, a quote for the week:
Thanks for sharing part of your weekend with me. Hope you enjoy exploring the links. Happy reading! Happy writing! Happy New Week!
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.