New England showed its true colors this week. After a Thursday that felt like spring (complete with near sixty-degree temperatures and March-like zephyrs), Friday dawned to a cold rain that transformed into heavy wet snow as the mercury fell. Parents who had scoffed at seemingly premature school closings were soon grateful that they didn’t have to venture out into what became a pretty messy afternoon commute.
Yesterday, after the storm had passed, my beau and I enjoyed a long walk in a nearby state park. Every bough in the forest was coated with a layer of snow, giving the place a clichéd faerieland look that was charming as hell. And when we reached the open spaces, the pristine surface of the snow sparkled like some crafty goddess has scattered a miniature universe of stars across the meadow. It was quite breathtaking.
And now it’s Sunday – hopefully a day for kicking back and letting your mind meander aimlessly. Here is this week’s batch of freshly curated links to my favorite blog posts, reads, and sundry other digital locations. Grab a mug of tea and a biscuit and enjoy. And if you have any links of your own to share, please feel free to drop them in the comments!
Books I’m Reading:
I have a very long list of books on my To Read list. Many of them live on Goodreads, but a few stragglers are in my wish list on Amazon, a Books folder in Evernote, and a photo album on my phone. (I have a habit of surreptitiously snapping photos of books I find in bookstores.) I know I’ll never get to all the books on my list, so sometimes it’s hard to pick which one to read next. Usually I browse my lists to see if any titles jump out at me. It’s more exciting, however, when one of my to-be-read books jumps out at me in Real Life. That’s just what happened with Lucy Wood’s novel, Weathering.
I first encountered Wood’s writing in her collection of short stories, Diving Belles. This anthology haunting stories weaves elements of Cornish folklore into everyday life, making the magical seem like a concrete part of our world – a force to be accepted. In Weathering, Wood tells a seemingly simple story of returning home:
(From the book jacket):
Pearl doesn’t know how she’s ended up in the river–the same messy, cacophonous river in the same rain-soaked valley she’d been stuck in for years. But here her spirit swirls and stays . . . Ada, Pearl’s daughter, doesn’t know how she’s ended up back in the house she left thirteen years ago–with no heating apart from a fire she can’t light, no way of getting around apart from an old car she’s scared to drive, and no company apart from her own young daughter, Pepper. She wants to clear out Pearl’s house so she can leave and not look back. Pepper has grown used to following her restless mother from place to place, but this house, with its faded photographs, its boxes of cameras and its stuffed jackdaw, is something new. Fascinated by the scattering of people she meets, by the river that unfurls through the valley, and by the strange old woman who sits on the bank with her feet in the cold, coppery water, Pepper doesn’t know why anyone would ever want to leave.
Wood’s work is like a series of old photographs pieced together into a subtle story that resonates in your head long after you’ve turned the last page. Her descriptions evoke a powerful sense of place and mood, almost visceral; but they are never just stage dressing. As I read, I sometimes thought to myself, “Is this going anywhere?” I only realized after I finished the book that the nagging sense of being stuck was part of the spell Wood wove. Her story captivated not only intellectually, but also emotionally – pulling at me like the current of a spring river that refuses to be ignored as it flexes its watery muscles and murmurs an endless incantation.
I will be looking more closely at the structure of this story and Wood’s masterful use of language. I look forward to sharing some of what I learn in a later post.
My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:
- The Morning Routine Experts Recommend For Peak Productivity by Eric Barker via @TIME – Even though I agree with my friend @mommyprayers that this list is lacking “drink coffee” and “read Twitter,” I do like item #5 in the list: “positive procrastination.”
- How to Stop Being Lazy also by Eric Barker via @TIME – I have to agree with Barker that To-do lists are evil, and you should schedule (calendar) everything.
- Could ‘method writing’ be the future for novelists? by Stephen McIntosh via @BBC – This fascinating article begins with a story about how the author Thomas W. Hodgkinson wrote his novel Memoir of a Stalker while lying on his back in a cupboard. On his mobile phone.
- Maurice Sendak on Storytelling, Creativity, and the Eternal Child in Each of Us by Maria Popova on @brainpicker “Be as foolish and as silly and whatever as you want, but you tell the truth in some way… Kids know instantly when you’re not, and how awful to not tell the truth — what’s the point, really?” ~ Maurice Sendak
- 11 Tricks & Mythbusters of Writing by @ReneeRosen1 via @WritersDigest – Some interesting points made here.
- Helen Ellis: ‘Writing is certainly a gamble’ by Tim Adams – Fun and funny insights and writing advice from a writer whose book Margaret Atwood chose as her “‘cackle-making’ book of the year.”
- 7 Mistakes You’re Making With Your Author Blog And How To Fix Them by @thecreativepenn – The usual no nonsense variety of advice from Joanna Penn. Love it.
- Octavia Butler’s personal journal writing her life into existence by Kiara Collins – Isn’t it nice to know even your heroes (and heroines) need to give themselves a pep talk once in a while?
- The Key To Beautiful Writing: Your Reader’s Imagination by @wdbk – Thought-provoking take on the role readers play in your work
- How to Be Creative, According to Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso and Stephen King by Daniel DiaPiazza via @TIME – Break the rules, work backwards, set daily quotas, and engage in “combinatory play.”
- Three Books That Will Immediately Improve Your Writing by Michael Solomon – Two of my faves and one I haven’t read yet. Yay!
- 10 Things to Never Say to a Writer by @JenSunshine – #6 and #9. All day long.
- What is Your Novel About? by @SPressfield – You’d better know the answer, and Pressfield gives you some tips on where to start looking to figure it out.
Sundry Links and Articles:
Understanding the connections and relationships between your characters is an important element of your story, but never before have I seen such a fascinating “mapping” as the Visualization of Narrative Structure created by Natalia Bilenko and Asako Miyakawa who asked the question, “Can books be summarized through their emotional trajectory and character relationships? Can a graphic representation of a book provide an at-a-glance impression and an invitation to explore the details?”
The project analyzes three books – The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. The interactive graphs created for each book allow you to explore the emotional trajectory of each character in depth: “Hovering over the sentence bars reveals the text of the original sentences. The emotional path of each character through the book can be traced by clicking on the character names in the graph. This highlights the corresponding sentences in the sentiment plot where that character appears. Click on the links below to see each visualization.”
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We could all use a grammar refresher once in a while. (It can’t hurt, right?) Our own Lisa Jackson does a fabulous series called Grammar-ease, but if you’d like to supplement her posts with some video tutelage I recommend the Comma Queen Series by The New Yorker. If you’re, like me, a staunch supporter of the Oxford comma, you might like to start with the episode on The Importance of Serial Commas. Or, you can browse the whole collection of videos.
Finally, a quote for the week:
Thanks, as always, for sharing part of your weekend with me and for giving me a space to share all my writerly geekiness. Have a GREAT week. Happy writing, happy reading, and happy exploring!
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.