Earlier this year, before I had come to terms with the reality that an onslaught of colliding project deadlines would render this The Summer That Wasn’t, I wrote a post encouraging you writers to Get Out! … to enjoy participating in the world as much as you enjoy observing, recording, and – in many cases – creating it.
I was reminded of that post earlier this week when, for the first time in ages, I gave myself permission to spend part of my morning hanging out at the local coffee shop. As fate would have it, I ran into a couple of women (one whom I hadn’t talked to in a long while and another with whom I’d recently spent the day). While I had planned to use my coffee shop time to do some long overdue journaling, outline a post for this blog, and put together some notes for an upcoming guest appearance on a podcast, the chance encounter with these ladies swept all such intentions away. Instead, I surrendered to the pleasure of our spontaneous and meandering conversation.
My work still got done, it just got done later. More importantly, I came away from my redirected morning feeling energized and inspired.
As writers, looking within is a major part of the gig. It’s what we do. We spend a lot of our time in our own heads – creating, building, crafting. But, sometimes it’s a good idea to get out of our own heads and into the world where we can talk with other people and connect face to face instead of on the page.
Books I’m Reading:
This week, I read two middle grade novels, which – by coincidence – both featured misunderstood witches. Though I chose them more or less at random, they turned out to be quite pointedly apropos for the Halloween season, especially given the recent trips my daughter and I have made to nearby Salem, Massachusetts, the site of the tragic witch trials of the late 1600s.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon is author Kelly Barnhill‘s fourth novel, and the first of her books that I’ve read. (I will definitely be reading others!) It’s the story of a girl named Luna, of secrets and lies, of growing up and growing old. It’s a story of magic, sorrow, and – most of all – hope. There is an old witch named Xan, a wise Swamp Monster, and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. And there is moonlight and wonder and fierce love.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a fairytale, but one that can – despite adhering to many of the classic fairytale tropes – enchant and surprise. Barnhill’s storytelling style weaves a cocoon of time and place around the reader, drawing you in by piquing your curiosity and keeping you enthralled with the entwining threads of the story and her often poetic use of language. There is danger and mystery, but also laughter and comfort. Barnhill creates an exquisite balance between the dark and the light.
This was one of those books that I wanted to keep reading even after I’d turned the last page. I am very much looking forward to reading some of her other works.
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The Thickety – A Path Begins is the first in J.A. White’s four-book series about a dark, forbidding forest and magic – both good and evil. This one was a serious page turner. As White’s fellow author said in a back cover blurb, “The Thickety is a sinister, magical debut with a marvelous and shocking heroine. J.A. White’s elegant writing and masterful plot kept me turning pages late into the night.” She’s not kidding.
Thankfully, the book was a quick read. Even better, when I dropped into my local library yesterday morning, the second installment of the series was sitting on the shelf, waiting for me. (Which was, I assure you, a big relief since the first book ended on something of a cliffhanger.)
Like The Girl Who Drank the Moon, The Thickety is another story about misunderstandings and wrong assumptions. Nothing is quite as it seems, and there are many twists and turns that draw you through the story, always wanting to read “just one more chapter.”
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In addition to being appropriate for the Halloween season (because of the witches and various monsters), both of these books reminded me of the truth that children don’t want nice stories. Also, in the context of the current cultural and political upheaval in the United States, the themes of exclusion, persecution, intolerance, and misunderstanding leap all the more dramatically and heart-wrenchingly off the page. Who says that children’s books are only for children? We could all use a little more education in those areas.
My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:
PUBLISHING & MARKETING
- The Next Big Thing in Social Media Is Small by @taragentile
- Making a Living Writing by @elizabethscraig
- We Need to Talk About Money: Practicality’s Place in a Writing Education by @gooddirt
- 20+ Badass Blogging Tools to Avoid Writing Embarrassment by @LesleyVos
- 81 Great Books in Children’s and Young-adult literature by @gretchenrubin
- Steve Martin: a Wild and Crazy Role Model by @sarahrcallender
- Writing “As If” by @SPressfield
- Finding Confidence by @AllieLarkin
THE WRITING LIFE
- The transformative power of stories on our own lives by @theflyways
- On Writing, Mothering, and Slouching Towards Fulfillment by Sarah Curtis Graziano
- Why I Write Vol. 4: The Right to Take Up Space by Judah Leblang
- Creating a support system for your creative work by @DanBlank
Finally, a quote for the week:
Here’s to making new friends and spending time with old friends, getting out into the real world so you’re better equipped to create your own world, and “children’s” stories that teach us how to be better human beings.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, 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.
This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.