Festive Fun

When in doubt, make it one line. 

If you know me personally (maybe even if you don’t), you know I get excited about Christmas as soon as the clock strikes midnight on Halloween. Then it’s yuletide festivities galore! I listen to Christmas music, I pull out a few Christmas decorations, I dream of a white Christmas, etc. etc. 

Not one of those people? Feel free to read something else, because this is going to be Christmas AF. 

This time of year, I also watch an embarrassing amount of Hallmark Christmas movies. So many. They are so much fun; perfectly predictable, fancifully festive, … [insert one more cute alliteration here]. 

One that came out this year was called Christmas at Pemberley Manor. If “Pemberley” sounds familiar, it’s because it is the name of the estate owned by Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. The movie had almost nothing to do with Jane Austen, except the character names and who ended up with whom. 

Though the movie left something to be desired (though it was full of Christmas cuteness), it inspired me to write a P&P based Christmas story.

As it goes often with my writing, I wrote the first line and blanked. After a few days of noodling on the first line, I realized it would be fun to turn a number of classic first lines into the beginnings of Christmas stories. Here they are! See if you can guess where they’re from.

  • It is a truth universally acknowledged that the Bennett family must go to the Crystal Lake Lodge at Christmas time.  
  • It was a bright cold day in December, and the bells were chiming twelve.
  • Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the Blue Spruce trees for the Christmas ball herself.
  • For a long time, I went to bed early, especially on Christmas Eve. 
  • In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me a Christmas gift that I’ve been pondering over ever since. 
  • It was a queer, quiet Christmas, the Christmas they orbited the moon, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.
  • In the late December of that year we lived in a stone cottage in a village that looked across the frozen river and the snowy plain to the mountains. 

See? So festive. I’d also like to apologize to all the classic novels whose first lines I just butchered.

If you have any classic first lines turned Christmas-y I’d love to read them!

Magic in the Air: A Seasonal Shift

I don’t know about you, but this time of year is my absolute favourite. It starts at the end of August and goes until the end of October. The magic in the air is so thick, you could cut it with a knife. It’s no wonder the celts and ancient pagans thought this was the time when the barrier between the spirit world and the living was thin.

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Every October I get the urge to write something magical. Last year I started a novel about wizards going to UofT and fighting a magic eating monster (Harry Potter for 20-somethings). In the past, I’ve also written stories about zombies and other spooky subject matter.

I doubt these urges will ever go away. This year, the story is an elderly witch who has to fight off an evil spirit who’s bringing back the dead.

It does make it hard to concentrate on the novel I’m supposed to be finishing in order to maybe publish it someday. Ahh well. Plenty of time for that in the sad, brown, cold, dreary days of November.

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I like to explore magic not only in writing but also visually, through photography and painting. A couple weeks ago, I went on vacation up to Algonquin Park. While the fall colours weren’t at peak (thank goodness because there would’ve been so many tourists), there was still enough autumnal magic to fill my heart.

There were plenty of subjects to photograph and I even did a little drawing of a mushroom.

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There were so many mushrooms everywhere, each time we went on a hike. I LOVE mushrooms. They’re so interesting and fun.

I was also able to do some stargazing, which is one of my favourite things to do up north. I love being able to see the milky way, something about it makes me feel so small. Though most of the nights were cloudy and the moon was getting quite full, so stargazing wasn’t really possible. BUT I was able to take a picture of some stars and after a teeny tiny bit of editing, I think it turned out pretty good (for my first try).

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Fun fact: We were up there during the equinox and we danced around a bonfire… okay, we huddled around a very sad little fire.

Anyway, this blog post started off so eloquent and on-topic. But let’s not kid ourselves, this was just a way for me to show off my awesome pictures. I hope you enjoyed them!

Have a wonderfully magical autumn!🍂

Quick Tip: Read Your Writing Out Loud!

If, like me, you are a writer and are editing a piece of writing… please, PLEASE, do yourself (everyone, really) a favour and read your damn writing out loud.

This read-through will pinpoint any grammar errors that can be self-corrected by the brain. It smooths out the sound of your writing and helps you find the best words. And the best words are simply the best. Go for the best words!

If you’re unable to read aloud yourself, find someone you trust and respect to help out.

I promise you, you won’t regret it!

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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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.

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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.