3 Things that Inspired my WIP

For the last ~6 years, I’ve been working on a novel (sometimes more actively than other times), and I’ve lost track of how many drafts it’s gone through. But, this book wasn’t born in a vacuum, and I’ve been inspired by quite a few different media.

Here are the top 3 things that inspired my novel.

Spirited Away (Film by Studio Ghibli)

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Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro Ogino, a sullen 10-year-old girl who, while moving to a new neighborhood, enters the spirit world. After her parents are transformed into pigs by the witch Yubaba, Chihiro takes a job working in Yubaba’s bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and return to the human world.

I’ve been a lover of Studio Ghibli movies since I was a child. Spirited Away is my absolute favourite and the first inspiration for my novel. If you read my most recent draft, you can pinpoint a few key elements that have made it through all the drafts that are directly drawn from this movie.
If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it.

 

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic

by Emily Croy Barker

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Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty.  Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.
Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her “real life” against the dangerous power of love and magic.

As I was working on the very rough first draft of my WIP, I discovered this book at my local bookstore. When I read the back cover, I knew I had to read this. It was the portal fantasy I had to read! It was just similar enough to my own work that it gave me a sprinkle of inspiration, especially how to handle the going through and coming from the portal.

 

Pstereo by Emilie Nicolas (music video)

I can’t even remember when I discovered this song. But when I saw the music video, the imagery just spoke to me. I’d already had this idea for my WIP, but this helped me visualize it and gave me some much-needed inspiration. And it’s a great song to boot.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, and these are not the only things that have influenced my work, but they are the most impactful.

 

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Top 5 Amazing Bookworms (Fictional & Real)

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.
– C.S. Lewis

I am a self-proclaimed bookworm. Real life prevents me from reading as much as I want to. Recently, I wrote a post about how reading is my escape from reality and I know I’m not alone.

Here are my top 5 favourite bookworms from fiction and real life:

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)

hermioneThis Harry Potter character has been a kindred spirit since I first discovered J.K. Rowling’s world. We’re both a little intense, want to follow the rules but willing to break them for good reason, and we both love reading. I just wish I could have her work ethic.

 

Belle (Beauty and the Beast)

Belle is also my favourite Disney princess (brunette power!) She uses reading to escape her provincial life (especially so in the 2017 version). Girl, same. Her love of reading allows her to have more empathy. And when she sings: I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I just feel it to my core.

 

L.M. Montgomery

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As a Canadian (especially a female), Anne of Green Gables is written into my DNA. As much as I always felt Anne Shirley is a kindred spirit, her author is also someone I relate to greatly. Her early life was tough (losing her mother and her father basically abandoning her), and sometimes she was the only child in her home. She found solace in her imagination and books. As someone who’s had more than enough time alone, books are friends that will never leave you.

 

Matilda (Matilda by Roald Dahl)

To me, Mara Wilson will always be Matilda. I will admit I watched the movie before reading the book. Matilda’s gumption and desire to learn is so inspiring. I was lucky to have a mother who took me and my little sister to the library when we were children. If only reading books gave one the power to move things with one’s mind.

 

Queen Elizabeth I

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Queen Elizabeth I has been a favourite historical figure of mine for a long time. As a royal, she had access to an amazing education (especially for women of that time). She was very well-read (in multiple languages) and translated Classic works into English. She also slayed as a monarch!

 

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Top 5 Favourite Books This Year (so far)

It’s July, over half-way through 2018 and so far this year I’ve read 20 books (according to my 50 Book Pledge where I track my reading).

I’m terrible at picking one favourite. The question: what’s your favourite book? terrifies me. But, I can easily point to a few that I’ve liked more than others.

Here’s my top five (in no particular order).

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters
The WonderI discovered Emma Donoghue by reading Room, which was amazing as well. The Wonder was on my TBR list for a while and I was excited to find it in a used bookstore.
The Wonder is such an interesting story. The characters are so real and the setting is unlike anything I’d read before.
There’s mystery, intrigue, and just enough of a twist near the end. The book has a happy ending, but not in a cheesy sort of way.

 

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

the snow childThis was one of those books that got me just from the cover. It also happens to be my exact cup of tea: a fairy tale-esque story with just the right amount of magic sprinkled in, so subtle that it blends with the environment.
Again, the characters were a big draw for me. All I wanted to know was what happened next.
This is the perfect book to read in the winter, to warm your heart and steel yourself for the long cold.

 

 

Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

31bdysyonpL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This book was recommended by Our Shared Shelf, Emma Watson’s book club. I bought the Kindle edition and devoured it in about two days.
This book is food for the soul with its beautiful poetic prose and thoughtful subject matter. It’s a memoir, so things get heavy, but never in a way that is too much.
Mailhot’s work speaks to me in ways that I can’t put into coherent words.

 

 

 

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

the little paris bookshopI actually listened to the audiobook version of this before I bought a physical copy. It took me a couple minutes to get into it, but then I was enchanted. Novels about books are some of my sweetest treasures. I’m a big fan of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, and this book is nothing like that, but still very good.
It’s lyrical and warm prose mixed with a heartwarming yet tragic story. The characters were eccentric, funny, and a little sad.
When I finished, I felt like I’d taken a warm bath.

 

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

the girl in the towerThis is the sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale, which I read after I bought the beautiful British edition on a trip. I’d been looking forward to this and it didn’t disappoint one bit. It was like going for coffee with an old friend.
Like The Snow Child, Arden draws inspiration from Russian folktales and weaves them effortlessly into the very real medieval Moscow.
I await the next book eagerly!

 

 

 

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Escapism

I try to maintain a healthy dose of daydreaming to remain sane.

– Florence Welch

I am an escape artist.

Not in the traditional, Harry Houdini sort of way. I cannot escape from a straightjacket while being held upside down in a tank of water. But I do escape. My straightjacket is reality.

Escapism is the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.

My reality has never been overly unpleasant but it is just a regular plain-old life. I used to go to school, do homework, sleep, eat. Now I go to work, write my book, sleep, eat. The repetitiveness is a bit much for me sometimes.

I don’t remember the exact moment when I discovered Harry Potter (maybe in the first grade?), but since I read the first book, I wanted to run away to Hogwarts and be a witch. The world of Harry Potter was my first conscious dip into the world of escape-through-fiction. My own world was suddenly a bit more ordinary because there was no magic.

Since then there have been many books that have acted as a portal out of my reality; included but not limited to Twilight, anything by Maggie StiefvaterThe Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic, and Anne of Green Gables. These books help(ed) me have faith that there is more to the world than meets the eye.

Reading is my escape.

Escapism isn’t always about books. I’ve been an avid daydreamer since… ever. The Oxford English Dictionary (online) defines a daydream as, “A series of pleasant thoughts that distract one’s attention from the present.”

From ballerinas to lost princesses, to orphans (thanks Anne Shirley and Annie), to lottery winners, my inner world is full of interesting characters and adventures. As a child, I could play make-believe forever. As an adult, my daydreams often revolve around being an author, paid enough to quit my job, able to buy a quaint cottage by the sea to live in with my cats.

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So cute!

In high school, my internal worlds started becoming external through my writing. It’s no longer me going on adventures but the characters I create. Worlds I didn’t know were rattling around in my head started coming out onto the page. It’s been fun to explore worlds someone else didn’t already create.

Writing is now my escape.

Between reading and writing, the monotony of life doesn’t feel so… monotonous.

 

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Book Review: The Little French Bistro

The sea offered her a song of bravery and love. It came from a long way away, as if someone somewhere in the world had sung it many years ago, for those on the shore who didn’t dare to take the plunge.

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Marianne is stuck in a loveless, unhappy marriage. After forty-one years, she had reached her limit, and one evening in Paris she decides to take action. Following a dramatic moment on the banks of the Seine, Marianne leaves her life behind and sets out for the coast of Brittany, also known as “the end of the world.” Here, she meets a cast of colorful and unforgettable locals and learns it’s never too late to begin the search for what life should have been all along.

Earlier this month I turned 25 years old. To most, I’m still a little sapling of a person, but to me, I’m as old as I’ve ever been and as young as I’ll ever be. I’m old enough to be reflective of my youth, but young enough to realize I still have my whole life still ahead of me. It’s nice to be reminded that it’s never too late for new beginnings.

I’m not a stranger to Nina George’s work. A couple of months ago I listened to the audiobook of The Little Paris Bookshop and fell in love with the south of France and all the wonderful characters George created. When I discovered there was another book, The Little French Bistro, I was excited to return to France for another adventure.

George’s work is imbued with her love of France. It radiates off the page and pierces your heart. In The Little French Bistro, we are transported to Brittany, where George lives, and her passion for her home is clear on the page.

Besides a love of France, this books made me feel. Though Marianne and I are separated by age and distance (not to mention that she’s fictional), I felt deeply connected to her and was on the same emotional journey. When I turned the last page, I felt as if the journey had come to a satisfying conclusion and that we could part ways as better people.

My favourite thing about this book was the other-worldliness that permeated the story. Nothing paranormal happens, but there is a real-world magic in the ocean, the wind, and the people.

I’ve finished this book believing that it’s never too late to run away to the coast and become a white witch playing the accordion to the sea.

 

On Dog Walking and Creativity

For over two years as I’ve been working on my novel, I’ve also been working as a dog walker. My hours vary depending on how many doggies need walking or cats need caring. Sometimes after a busy day, I just want to fall on the floor and never get up again. But, in general, I think this physical job has helped my writing more than hinder it.

 

Get Out and Get Going

 

Physical activity that doesn’t require critical thinking is a known way to combat writer’s block.

 

Writing is all about what’s going on in your head, very cerebral. Getting out and walking for hours a day means I can turn off the part of my brain that does all the writing. This allows the creative juices to work in the background and solve the plot issues I was having troubles with, or think of new scenes and characters.

Maker:S,Date:2017-8-25,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Physical activity that doesn’t require critical thinking is a known way to combat writer’s block. While writer’s block hasn’t been a major problem for me recently (knock on wood), being able to put writing on the backburner means I’m not getting creatively drained.

 

Interesting People and Places

 

The people we pass and sometimes talk to, add to my internal catalog of character traits.

 

My job involves spending lots of time with many different types of dogs with lots of personalities. I’ve dabbled with an idea about a dog-walker having to save a dog that secretly belonged to a secret service agent.

But mostly, it’s the places we walk and the people we meet along the way that offer the inspiration.

While out with my fur friends, I’ve discovered many a favourite tree and plenty of inspiring scenery. The people we pass and sometimes talk to, add to my internal catalog of character traits; whether appearance, mannerisms, or personality based.

People are endlessly interesting.

 

Nature and the Creative Soul

 

Being in a happy place is great for motivation. Motivation is great for writing.

 

In my last post, I wrote about the healing power of nature. Especially when it gets warm (for like two months in Canada), I find the green trees and the bright sun fill my soul with bliss. Even though I find winter a little soul-crushing after December, I can still find the beauty.

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Even without the direct inspiration, nature is what keeps my state-of-being in a happy place. Being in a happy place is great for motivation. Motivation is great for writing.

I will always find joy in nature and my job allows me to be out in it a lot. Sometimes I do end up a sweaty, dog-hair covered mess, but there’s always an underlying joy that allows me to keep writing.

Thoughts from Away ~ Healing Nature

I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

 

I spent the past weekend frolicking in the forest up north in Algonquin Park. My family usually spends a weekend there in early May in the hopes of seeing moose. Early May is a good time to see moose.

When the snow melts, the salt from the roads creates salty puddles that the nutrient-deficient moose like to drink from. If you have luck on your side and are strong enough to get up early, there should be an abundance of moose to view.

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Unfortunately, we only saw one moose this year.

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(I’m so sorry for this crappy picture)

Despite a lack of moose, I still enjoyed myself immensely. I’d been feeling a bit rundown at work and was in need of a refresh.

I personally believe in the healing power of nature. Something about being under the sky, surrounded by fresh air, trees in all directions, is good for the soul.

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Obviously, it’s not a catch-all solution; I’m a full supporter of getting proper treatment for mental health problems whether it’s medication or not. For my personal brand of high-functioning anxiety and depression, I find time away from civilization to be beneficial.

People aren’t meant to be so disconnected from nature.

I also firmly believe that if you can get out into nature, you should. It can’t hurt. Simply going to a local park might be enough, or even standing under a tree (it would probably appreciate the company).

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Coming home is always bittersweet because I could just spend forever up there surrounded by woods. I definitely want to come back as a tree. A big oak tree.

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*In all these pictures, the lakes are still partially frozen. The upsettingly sad April we had meant the lakes up north have only started melting. It was interesting though, seeing all the chunks of ice.

First draft vs. now

The first lines of my first draft from 2014

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The first lines of my most recent draft (2018)

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Since 2014 Winnie has undergone many changes (age, location, whininess). I’m not sure if this draft is the draft I’ll be submitting or what. But, I’m hopeful it’s getting nearer to that draft.

(I’m sorry for how many times I just used the word draft)

Book Review: Braving the Wilderness

“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

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This book came to me at exactly the right time. It was the Saturday before Easter and I was feeling kind of “wrong.” I was particularly upset about anything, but there was a bad feeling gnawing in my head. Suddenly I had the urge to write in my journal.

I wrote about my feelings of inadequacy in my relationships (friendships, romantic) and my inescapable desire to be liked by all, even at the expense of my identity.

When I was done writing, I was feeling extremely vulnerable; I reached for this book and began reading.

Early in the book, Brené Brown talks about a quote from Maya Angelou, which permeates through the whole book:

You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.

I feel like this quote in and of itself is what I need(ed) to realize about myself. The rest of the book often came back to this quote and the idea of belonging nowhere and everywhere, and especially, to oneself. Brown provides advice on how to achieve this with generosity and kindness.

She explains very clearly how and why people have separated from each other, but human connection is something we all need. If I had read this book at any other time, I might not have enjoyed it as much as I did. But, I quite enjoyed it because it was exactly the right time for me.

Brown’s work is well-researched and filled with relatable stories from her own life and from others. The stories make the research understandable. This book was thoughtful, heartfelt, and she inspired bravery in me when I needed it the most.

Adventures in Positive Feedback

Yesterday I got a text from a good friend. She’d finished reading the latest draft of my manuscript after she’d volunteered to be a Beta Reader. “I couldn’t put it down” is one comment that really struck me.

I think every writer wants to hear at some point that a reader enjoyed your work so much they couldn’t stop reading. Though, I suspect it happens more after a manuscript is published. Maybe.

Her feedback was positive and was a much-needed ego boost. I’d been working on this thing for two and a half years, and I figured I was the only one who would care about the characters and the story.

Later that day, I got a message from another person who asked to read it. Their comments were also positive; the characters were individual, the writing was fluid, etc. That was also a much-needed ego boost.

Having positive feedback on a draft of one’s first novel, there is hope (or at least more hope) for the future.

 

BRB: Daydreaming of getting an amazing book deal with a huge advance.