Nick Earls on how to start writing

So, I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few sessions at the Melbourne Writers Festival in the last few days.  I’ve heard authors, editors, publishers, mentors and aspiring writers alike talk about their creative processes, their shared love of reading and the tough journey towards being published.

In every session that I’ve attended, it has closed with a Q & A, where the audience has been given the opportunity to participate in the discussion and ask their idols any questions they like.  In every session the same question has arisen; “How do you start writing?”.

Up until today, I’ve noticed a stealthy evasion of actually answering this question.  The writers on stage have quite eloquently clarified that writing a novel doesn’t necessarily begin with the first sentence.  That they don’t have to have an idea fully formed to begin.  That each time they write they might begin in a different place.  That they have no particular method to collating their ideas.

And so on and so on.  Essentially, they have quashed all the myths about how one might assume you’d start writing a novel, without ever clarifying or giving an example of how they have gone about it.

Now, I realise that everybody writes differently, and that writers often don’t have a plan or method by which their novel comes to be.  I also realise that the same author might write by a different process for every novel they publish.  But is it too much to ask that they give just a small indication as to where they began and how their ideas progressed?  Us aspiring writers, we’re not stupid.  We know that it’s not a case of ‘my way or the highway’, that your method might not work for me, or that where you started is not where all writers should assume to begin.  But it would be nice to know at what point they felt ready to write and how their ideas progressed, so that we might better recognise that time too.

It would also be great to hear some first-hand proof that one sunny day they didn’t just give birth to a perfectly formed novel.

Nick Earls

Today I had the pleasure of sitting in on a session called “Meet Nick Earls”.  An Australian author of young adult fiction, Nick has written twelve books, all highly acclaimed and one, 48 Shades of Brown, which was awarded the Book of the Year by the Children’s Book Council in 2000.

The audience was made up of primarily High School students, which I can safely say is customarily a good indication that there will be a lot of fidgeting, yawning and whispering in the back rows.  Remarkably, Nick had their undivided attention from start to finish as he discussed the characters and ideas within his novels and how they came to fruition.

He caused a great deal of laughter amongst the audience when he recounted a memory from his childhood where he used to shut himself in his bedroom to study chemistry.  His mother, to his misfortune, had been informed that when teenagers shut themselves in their rooms, they were most likely masturbating.

The ‘m’ word caused great amusement amongst the crowd.

He went on to tell us how his mother had gone on to reveal this discovery to him, resulting in him studying with his door open from that point forward, so that his mother would not think her son was in his room doing otherwise.  This was to his disadvantage, of course, when she kept interrupting him whilst he was hard at work, but at the time saw no other solution to save his reputation.

It was all highly entertaining, and so of course by the end of the session the kids were keen to ask some questions.

And then it came.

“So, how do you start writing?”

I momentarily zoned out.  Here we go again, I thought, another lecture on how you need to find what works for you.

But hark! What’s this?

Nick began detailing the time he was given a three week deadline to submit a specifically themed story for an anthology.  He spent the first week panicking and researching the other writers who were contributing so that he might follow their style and understand better what was expected of him and his story.  He spent the second week trying to come up with an idea, and at last decided he wanted a boy to meet a girl, and that the boy would be wearing a dress and the girl a beard when they met (there is no rhyme of reason to the things us writers come up with!).

He then explained how he started asking questions of himself.  Why were they dressed so?  He got stuck on this point for some days until he happened across a street which was adorned with Christmas lights, festive decorations and nativity scenes in every window.  Light bulb moment, he decided they would be dressed like that because they were in a Christmas play.  He then asked himself why they were in the play.  Why the boy wanted to meet the girl.  Why they hadn’t met before.  And so on and so on.  He broke down his creative process for the students and they responded exceptionally well to it.  And so did I.

Without having to say so, he explained that ideas can manifest by chance, from your environment and through experiences, but also by actively working at and seizing those ideas, which I’m sure is what the other writers were getting at anyway, but in (what I believe was) a less helpful manner.  Kids, in particular, want to know how things work and Nick described what he did, with no suggestion that that was how everyone worked, but with plenty of enthusiasm and encouragement to inspire the audience through the tiny steps that led him from a small idea to a completed novel.

I found myself totally inspired by his honest approach to answering this sought after question.  Writers are often buried under a mountain of self doubt, never knowing if they’re good enough, if they will succeed or if they have anything worth saying.  For someone as successful and talented as Nick Earls to offer his step by step process to aspiring writers, I thought it was an excellent way to show kids that writing is about being creative, being curious and asking questions.

He also demonstrated that writing was hard work, but radiated nothing but the fun of discovering your characters and fleshing out a plot.  This, I believe, is how you get people motivated.  Show them what is involved, but communicate the enjoyment that can be had from that process.  Get people excited about writing!

Afterwards I was asked to escort Nick to his book signing, and took the opportunity to tell him what a great job I thought he’d done in the session.  He was just as personable and interesting one to one, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to hear him speak today.

Follow @nickearls on Twitter or check out his website http://www.nickearls.com/.

~storytelling nomad~

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A Storytelling Utopia: Melbourne Writers Festival 2011

So I mentioned a few posts ago that I had a number of reasons for my recent absence, and today I’m going to share with you one of them.

In Australia there is an ongoing rivalry between the city of Sydney and the city of Melbourne.  Those who live in Sydney claim that they live in the superior city, and those who live in Melbourne claim much the same.  The general consensus, however,  is that Sydney is a financial city, and Melbourne a cultural city.  The Melbourne Writers Festival plays a significant role in this widespread understanding and the number of highly acclaimed national and international guests that attend from year to year, is testament to the festival’s success and the city’s appeal.

This year, I was lucky enough to be selected as a volunteer for the Melbourne Writers Festival.  Woo!  The festival is an annual event that has been running since 1986, and this year joined forces with four other international festivals to form the Word Alliance, now made up of:

  • The Melbourne Writers Festival
  • The Edinburgh International Book Festival
  • The Bookworm International Literary Festival in Beijing
  • The International Literature Festival in Berlin
  • International Festival of Authors in Toronto.

Totally rad.

So what kind of guests are we talking? Pretentious editors? High literature writers? Celebrity journalists?  Well yes, I suspect there are some of those, but the Melbourne Writers Festival is far more than that, and unique in that it observes all kinds of storytelling, not just the award winning, ostentatious kind.  The website elaborates:

Each year, MWF invites novelists, playwrights, poets, screenwriters, journalists, songwriters, bloggers – anyone who’s part of the world of words. We host politicians and artists, policy wonks and pop culture icons, crime writers and high culture theorists. The festival program features an enormous range of literary activity including entertaining discussions, debates, readings, film screenings, interviews, literary banquets, performances, workshops and book launches, as well as a lively schools’ program for primary and secondary students.

Festival Background

Last year they hosted Joss Whedon.  Enough said.

The Golden Ticket

So, as a volunteer I get to make sure people are being orderly, scan their tickets, give directions, have a chat, make sure the guests are comfortable and answer any questions that patrons might have.  My fellow volunteers have so far been awesome, the shifts fun and the patrons very well behaved.  I also get to wear a groovy volunteer shirt.  Win.

The major perk to this gig, however, is my volunteer pass, which gets me into any event over the entire festival.

When I attended my orientation day a few weeks ago, I was astounded at the wide array of events, panels and workshops that were taking place and began to get quite excited at the prospect of attending these events in between my shifts.

One event, the Martin Martini In(k) Concert, merges sounds and image with musician Martin Martini playing in concert whilst four artists illustrate to the tune and inspiration of the music, their images projected onto the walls of the venue.  A totally unique experience, demonstrating that the art of storytelling is far from limited to just words on paper and can be inspired and influenced by anything around you, even sound.

Author Kate Grenville

Today, I attended a session called Why I Read, featuring prominent authors Kate Grenville (pictured left), Tess Gerritsen and Chris Womersley, all discussing the books that they read growing up and the impact it had on their calling as writers.  They also discussed how reading has changed, an echoing theme throughout the festival, and how we can encourage children and teenagers to read more.

Another highlight of the festival is the collection of city walks.  From specialist bookshops to the city’s origins, the guided walks highlight the Melbourne that is inspiration for writers, readers and storytellers.  My favourite of the walks is called Melbourne’s Hidden Dragons, and it takes you on a tour of the stone guardians and silken mascots that are scattered around the city and explores the mythology of the beasts and their presence in storytelling.  Seriously cool right?

One of Melbourne's hidden dragons

And, on Tuesday evening I hope to attend Edinburgh Unbound, described as “Part reading, part gig, part party”.  Basically it is a fusion of Scottish and Australian musicians and storytellers coming together to present an evening of performance, music, film and stories in celebration of the partnership between the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Edinburgh Book Festival in our sister UNESCO City of Literature.

It is heartening to note that the attendants of the festival have so far ranged from toddlers to grannies, with no gaps in between.  I like to think this is a positive indication in light of recent discussions regarding ‘the death of the book’ and even ‘the death of the reader’, which today I was assured were both myths.  Yes, fellow writers, you can rest easy.

Young and old, we are still fascinated by the art of storytelling, whether it be through the traditional or graphic novel, music or art, the written or the spoken word.  How we tell the stories may be changing, evolving even, but the fact that we are still telling them and interested in how others tell them is what’s important and is what will keep the art of storytelling alive for a long time to come.

The festival runs from Thursday 25th August to Sunday 4th September and all the information can be found on the Melbourne Writers Festival website at http://www.mwf.com.au/2011/.

~storytelling nomad~

Lessons Learned

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island. -Walt Disney

With the 30 Day Book Challenge now done and dusted, I find myself missing the daily mission of scouring my bookshelves and digging deep into the recesses of my mind in a hunt to find the appropriate book for each task.  It was a literary treasure hunt for my book-lover mind, and I took great pleasure in reliving my reading history and rediscovering what books mean to me and the influence they’ve had on my life.

Throughout the challenge I contentedly reacquainted myself with some old favourites, relived memorable childhood reading moments, and crooned over some literary heartthrobs.  I confessed some secrets, pledged my eternal allegiance to a certain author, and had many an inner battle in futile attempts to choose ‘favourites’.

Frankly, I found the whole challenge a wonderful exercise and am happy to see so many of you taking the challenge too.

Before I leave you to it, however, I thought I might share with you the top three things I’ve learned about myself and my reading habits from this literary pilgrimage.

  • I read a lot of fantasy.  I mean, a lot.  I can’t remember the first fantasy book I read, but I do remember my reluctance due to having always associated fantasy with sci fi, which I was not at all interested in.  Even after having read a few fantasy novels, all of which I surprised myself in thoroughly enjoying, I recall it taking me a while to actually start looking forward to starting a new one or seeking out more.  For some time I had this unfounded suspicion that something resembling Star Trek was going to sneak its way into my impressionable reading mind, and put me off reading forever.  I’m still not a fan of Star Trek or sci fi, but I now know the differences between the speculative fiction sub genres, and can proudly profess my love of fantasy without fearing pointy-eared men and beam-me-up-scotty’s scaring me away.
  • My memory is as poor as I suspected.  I anticipated the challenge would be difficult for this reason, and truly it was.  I’m certain I’ve forgotten a great deal of the books I have read and am positive that many of them could have been used over the course of the 30 Day Book Challenge.  I have learned my lesson though.  As they say, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’  As far as I’m aware, my memory isn’t going to improve any with age, so I’ve set myself an undertaking.  From 2011, I have started a reading list, documenting all the books I have read since the start of the year.  I am particularly interested to see how many it totals up to by December 31st, but mostly content to know that I will have something to refer to in the future.
  • I have a potentially unhealthy obsession with a certain author who has consumed the last several months of my reading life.  I mentioned her or her books in seven out of the thirty posts, have referred to her as She-God, Perfection, Wonderful, and Writing God, and suspect that many of you now believe me to be a Robin Hobb stalker.  I’m sorry about that and deny all such claims.  I am, however, seeking help for this matter and hereafter vow not to mention her name again for some time unless it is profoundly necessary* or unless a substantial Hobb-free interlude has passed.  *Profound necessity could refer to: Author contact; Financial ruin due to Hobb book purchases; Discovering the Farseer characters are real; Collapsing bookshelves due to TMHS (To Many Hobbs Syndrome).

So there it is.  My lessons learned in a nutshell.  Thanks to all of you who commented and participated in the challenge with me.  I’m looking forward to *one day* getting to all the books you’ve recommended, and eagerly anticipate the posts of those of you who are now taking part in the 30 Day Book Challenge.

Happy reading fellow bloggers.

~storytelling nomad~

Humour, flirting, and education at the coffee table

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 30

Favorite coffee table book

Well here we are.  The final day of the 30 Day Book Challenge.  Who would have thought we’d make it this far?  I certainly had my doubts.  There were good times, bad times, an extended deadline, and a few unexpected intermissions, but 30 books and 57 days later we reached the finish line.  Woo!

I’m mildly disappointed that Day 30 has to end with my ‘favourite coffee table book’, seeing as I don’t actually own a coffee table.  I would’ve liked to end with a BANG! Like, the most expensive book you ever bought.  Or the best book EVER created in the entire universe!  But alas, what am I if I cannot improvise in the face of a challenge?

So let’s see.  If I had a coffee table, what book would I like to live permanently upon it?  I’m going to go with the Lonely Planet Italian Phrasebook.  I purchased this book when I was 16 before heading to Italy for the very first time.  It was truly invaluable, but also highly entertaining.

My friends, English and Italian alike, would always find great pleasure in reading certain sections of this book, particularly that relating to dating, romance and sex.  Subtitles such as “Breaking the Ice”, “Classic Rejections”, “Making Love” and “Afterwards”, may give you some idea as to the sort of ‘phrases’ they included for a traveller’s convenience.

The best included:

‘Do you come here often?’ – Vieni spesso qui?

‘You’re not my type.’ – Non sei il mio tipo.

‘You turn me on.’ – Mi ecciti.

‘Was it good for you?’ – Ti è piacuto?

‘Faster!’ – Più veloce!

I can only imagine being in the sort of situations that require these phrases and asking the other person to “just hold on a moment while I consult my phrasebook.  Ah yes, Più veloce!”

Ha.

In any case, I think it would keep people interested and entertained when they come over for coffee.  Don’t you?

~storytelling nomad~

Book you’re currently reading

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 29

Oh no! I should have looked ahead, because I only the other day wrote about what book I’m reading in my Feeding My Book Addiction post.  My bad.

For those of you who missed it, however, I’m currently reading The Golden Fool by Robin Hobb.  It is book two of the Tawny Man Trilogy, and follows on from the much acclaimed Farseer Trilogy.

I’ve found that Robin Hobb loves to dedicate much of her time to character building in her books, which often means that a lot of the action doesn’t take place until quite a way into the novels.  I don’t mind at all, because a) her characters are interesting and b) it makes later plot advancements and drama all the more compelling after spending so much time getting to know the characters, their motives and desires.  Despite this, she doesn’t fall into that dreadful trap of rushing the action at the end.  The stories are all well paced and never bore, at least not me.

This book is no different, and I am currently still caught up in the character building stages, but sense that the action is not too far away…

~storytelling nomad~

Potential Energy (via The Bailey Daily)

Enjoying this blog.  The post on how to get yourself writing by lying to yourself is also worth checking out.

Potential Energy “You have a lot of potential.” Anyone ever said that to you?  A lot of my high school teachers told me this.  At the time, it kind of sounded ok, I mean, compared to what other people were saying about me.  Then I got older.  Not all at once, but rather slowly.  And I started to realize that this wasn’t a very helpful comment. I tried to define the comment.  That’s what older people do.  They like to define things, to draw a nice, little mental b … Read More

via The Bailey Daily

 

~storytelling nomad~

Assholes, masterminds, and funny people in cyberspace

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 28

Last book you read

Well, I’m not going to mention the She-God of writing again, because that would just make me sound like a crazy stalker person…which I’m not, by the way.  If you want to check out the *actual* last book I read you can go to Day 24 of the book challenge, where I talked about my favourite scene in a book (watch out for the spoiler!).

Meanwhile, I’d like to mention the last book I read from today.  Fair?  I thought so.

Today, in a moment of sheer insanity and after several months of giving the WNIP (Work Not In Progress) the cold shoulder, I spent roughly half an hour writing up a plot summary with, believe it or not, actual plots (note: plural!). Hoorah! I’ve mentioned before that I had an idea for a novel but was struggling to begin without knowing where the story was heading and what the protagonist’s purpose was.  Some suggested to just start writing anyway, others insisted that some idea of the plot was necessary, others just told me to stop procrastinating and get on with it (hello again unfriendly but straightforward voice in my head!).

Try as I may, I could not face writing it without the plot to guide me and so, in frustration and disappointment at being unsuccessful in my plot making endeavors, I paralysed myself into a novel hating lull.  I didn’t want to think about it, look at it or talk about it with anyone.  Something just wasn’t working, and I didn’t know how to fix it.

Today, like a sign from the heavens, I received a well needed shove to get the motors going again (thank you She-God!).  I opened up Scrivener and started to write.  Half an hour and approximately 1000 words later I had an idea that I was excited about, with plot twists, drama and conflict! All the things I had been struggling to establish with my original idea, finally coming to life!

So what changed, you ask?  What changed, my friends, was the story.  Like, the whole thing.  About the only thing I kept was my character’s name.  I still love the original idea, but have come to the conclusion that it’s just not ready to be written yet.

So, back to the purpose of this post, that being the last book I read, or in this case, the last book I picked up.  In my plot writing frenzy, I started getting curious about how the big boys of epic fantasy built their worlds and created their creatures.  Who to look to in such a moment of need?  The master of fantasy himself, of course:  J R R Tolkien.

During my teenage years when I was obsessed with the LOTRs, my parents bought me Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia by David Day; a comprehensive guide to everything you’d ever want to know about Middle Earth, the Undying Lands, the creatures, the characters, the geography, the history.  This book is pretty spectacular.

Now, it has to be said that when I began flicking through the pages today, I started to panic.  That little voice in my head started having a go with his usual taunts; “Don’t be an idiot Katy.  You could never create anything as comprehensive as the world of Tolkien.  Look at all the research!  It’s far beyond your inferior intellect.”

That little voice is a real asshole sometimes.  As has happened many a time before, my confidence in my abilities started waning and I could almost see that small spark of creativity threatening to die a slow death in the depths of my brain.  Bummer, right?

Well, it would have been if I hadn’t come across what I can only guess was intended to be a funny look on how to write fantasy fiction.  It read:

Researching mythologies, legends, and history on your own is a complete waste of time — real authors don’t worry about that kind of thing. It’s fantasy; they just make stuff up off the tops of their heads!

Now, I realise research can be more than important when writing.  I for one can’t write without a fast internet connection for all the Googling I do while I’m ‘in the mode’.  And yet despite this, it sort of reminded me that my greatest tool is my imagination.  If I want to, I really can just ‘make it up off the top of my head’.  For some time I have been crippling myself with the idea that I simply don’t know enough to start, or continue, especially with world building.  But really I don’t need to ‘know’ anything.  I just need to create it.

Ideally, of course, I would like to have my world reflect a reality readers can relate to.  Power structures, heirarchy, economy and commerce are all things that make a world run, for better or worse.  They may not need to be identified, but the reader needs to know they’re there.

But I digress.  The point of the story is that today was a good day.  Tolkien both helped and scared me out of inertia and some funny person on the internet reminded me not to take it all so seriously, because my mind is quite capable of filling in the gaps.

As for the asshole in my head?  He’s still there, but he’s unlikely to resurface again today.

Katy 1 – Asshole 0

~storytelling nomad~

Your friendly Friday kick up the backside

Well I certainly needed this kick up the backside today.  Take heed fellow would-be-writers!

Would you have any words of advice for the would-be-writers out there?

Start today. Write. Finish what you start. Submit what you finish. Repeat. Don’t get caught up in the ‘someday I’m going to do that’ trap. Don’t blog and tell yourself that it puts you on the road to being a published fiction writer. It just makes you a blogger. Get your stories down on paper now. Don’t wait. The stories that you can and would write today are irreplaceable. The story you will write at 15 can’t wait until you are 30. It won’t be the same story. It will be gone. Don’t write a lot of stuff in other people’s worlds. You are not a cookie press pushing out dough into a pre-set shape. You’re a writer. If you don’t write your own characters and worlds now, today, no one ever will.

If you don’t write them now, your characters will shrivel up and die, unknown, unread, unmourned, and it will be ALL YOUR FAULT!

(Isn’t guilt a wonderful motivator?)

Robin Hobb in an interview at Grinding to Valhalla

~stoytelling nomad~

Feeding my book addiction

My last post had me mentioning (again) Robin Hobb, so I thought I’d follow it with a quick update on where I’m up to in the world of Hobb and other reading exploits.

I’ve been a bit behind on my reading lately, and seem to be progressing far slower than usual, so I’m only up to book two of The Tawny Man Trilogy: The Golden Fool.  Loving it of course.  But I’m quite keen to finish this trilogy, not only so that I can read more Hobb, but also because I have a number of other attractive books that continue to stare at me from their place on the bookshelf, alone and unread and tempting me with their alluring covers and seductive stories.  They include:

Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones - I love her!

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin– I am SO very excited to start reading this series because I recently watched the new HBO television adaptation of it and thought it was AMAZING! Apparently the author also played the part of executive producer in the making of the show, which gives me high hopes that the novels will be just as spectacular if not better.

On Writing by Stephen King – I have been hearing about this book literally everywhere I go.  I started reading it at work one day and already understand the hype.  Looking forward to reading the rest.

Burn Bright by Marianne de Pierres– I recently heard Marianne speak at the Supanova Fantasy/Sci Fi Convention in Sydney.  I was inspired to read her books and was lucky enough to meet her at the book stall and have her sign this one.  I have heard nothing but good things about this Australian writer, so can’t wait to check it out.

Friday's Child by Ian Kennedy Williams

Friday’s Child by Ian Kennedy Williams – The author of this collection of short stories is a fellow member of my writers’ group, and a talented writer at that.  Yesterday I went to hear Ian at a National Book Council meeting here in Launceston, where he discussed where the ideas for some of his stories came from and some of the places that have inspired stories he has written.  Having already read one of his short stories in the writers group, and finding his presentation yesterday fascinating, I decided it was time to stock up on some more of his work, starting with Friday’s Child.  After hearing him read some excerpts, I already know I’m going to like it.

La Bella Lingua by Dianne HalesGifted to me on my birthday by my best friend Priscilla.  It’s been a while since I read a travel story and I’m having severe withdrawals.

I’m not out of work!..I’m a Writer! by Wayne E. Pollard – I was lucky enough to be sent this by the author when I mentioned his outstanding blog in my post about The dangers of ebook world domination.  Thanks Wayne!  Meanwhile, his blog Bo’s Cafe Life has some highly entertaining comics relating to all things writer-ly.

An example of the entertainment found over at Bo's Cafe Life

And yet, despite this excellent line up of books yet to be read, I continue to find excuses to keep buying more books to pile up in sweet anticipation.  Today alone I ordered another three from the Book Depository, which by the way is where I buy all but my home grown Aussie books these days.  Free delivery anyone?  And super cheap new books too.  Book lover heaven I tell you.

Okay, I think it’s time to scoot.  I do, after all, have a KAZILLION books to read and so little time.

~storytelling nomad~

Favourite Fiction Book

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 27

I don’t want to frighten you all away with my Robin Hobb obsession, but I can’t seem to escape the Robin Hobb Love Bubble.  She has me bewitched I tell you!

Day 1 of the 30 Day books challenge saw me mention Assassin’s Apprentice as my favourite book, and I will stick by that choice for my favourite fiction book.  More about my Hobb addiction can be found here, where I talk about my love affair, and here, the most joyous of days when I awoke to an email from the writing god herself.  Bliss.

~storytelling nomad~

Say no to drugs! But say yes to this book about drugs.

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 26

Favorite nonfiction book

I have to say, I’m not often found perusing the non fiction section in the book store.  I read to escape reality, not to be reminded of it, which I realise is a fairly narrow-minded point of view of the genre.  Yet, despite my aversion I’ve somehow managed to read a number of excellent nonfiction books in recent years.  Humorous coffee table books, kids books on ‘how things work’, travel books and biographies.  Within me there obviously lies a dormant desire to read nonfiction, because it’s succeeded in sneaking into my reading list without my even being consciously aware of it! Go figure.

It wasn’t until last year during my writing course, however, that I had that light bulb moment and realised that nonfiction also has to incorporate all the elements and styles of a fiction novel, just without the made up parts.  An epiphany!  (Note: I am regularly prone to ‘blonde moments’ such as these.  It’s nothing to worry about, really).  Travel writing especially, caught me unawares when it registered in my head that just because the events happened one after another, it didn’t mean they had to be written in that order.  I had simply assumed that nonfiction was a chronological record of interesting events.  No beginning, middle and end, no conflict, no resolution as there is in a fiction book.

Of course, It all seemed quite obvious after I really put some thought into it.  I’d been quite ignorant of the genre and unjustifiably harsh on the poor old nonfiction section.  In fact, it seems so silly to me now that I’m almost wondering if I should have admitted to such foolishness at all.  Should I go back and delete the first two paragraphs of this post?  I could have started with something more like:

Non-fiction, *pause while I inhale from my pipe* a genre I both treasure and admire.  It is simply too hard to choose from the many literary masterpieces I have read and studied.  The genius of writers such as [insert nonfiction author here] and [insert another nonfiction author here] continue to astound this humble reader.

Nope.  I don’t think I could have pulled it off.  In any case, fortunately for me (and for you), I don’t have to fabricate an alternate life where I’m a high brow reader of every genre known to mankind, because there is a nonfiction book that comes to mind as a favourite AND I even know the author’s name.  Success!

Marching Powder by Rusty Young.

From Publishers Weekly on Amazon.com

This memoir of a British drug dealer’s nearly five years inside a Bolivian prison provides a unique window on a bizarre and corrupt world. McFadden, a young black man from Liverpool arrested for smuggling cocaine, finds himself forced to pay for his accommodations in La Paz’s San Pedro Prison, the first of many oddities in a place where some inmates keep pets and rich criminals can sustain a lavish lifestyle. The charismatic McFadden soon learns how to survive, and even thrive, in an atmosphere where crooked prison officials turn up at his private cell to snort lines of coke. By chance, he stumbles on an additional source of income when he begins giving tours of the prison to foreign tourists, a trade that leads to the mention in a Lonely Planet guidebook that attracts the attention of his coauthor, Young, who was backpacking in South America at the time.

I’m typically put off by stories of true crime, drugs and criminals, so to say that this one captured my attention, held it, AND became a favourite, is truly testament to the book.  I mean, the man had to pay for his own prison cell for goodness sakes!  Remarkable.  It really is a fascinating read.

~storytelling nomad~

I had you fooled, right! Right? Hello?

See how I did that?  Right there.  No there!  The part where I slipped in a sneaky blog post after two weeks of silent truancy, so delicately you didn’t even notice my absence.  Right?  Right?!

Is there an echo in here?

Okay, so maybe a few of you noticed.  And to you I am grateful for the warm welcome back to the blogosphere.  I missed you too!

I think it’s finally time to admit a sad fact; I find it impossible to write without my laptop, a fast internet connection, silence, and more often than not, my own writing space.  This is fine when I’m at home, but as you may have noticed, the name of this blog includes the word ‘nomad’, which may drop a not so subtle hint that I’m not always going to be at home with my laptop, a fast internet connection and sweet, unbroken silence.

(This might be a good time to note that although I do sort of sound like one of those outrageous celebrities claiming they can’t work without a golden toilet seat, a tank of live lobsters and a purple, three-headed shewolf, I swear that I do no associate myself with or emulate such behaviour.  Now bring me that coffee, pronto!)

During my first month as a blogger I aimed to write something every day, which I did.  It immersed me in the world of blogging and became an excellent exercise in helping me to write on command, write better, and basically to write more.  This past month I have come to realise that daily blogging is not always going to be possible, and truthfully, not always favourable.

I tend to do things in surges.  My seasonal job working at the snow often has me working 14 consecutive days without a day off.  I don’t mind because I love working on the mountain and I know the season will only last a few months.  With writing, I immerse myself in it for weeks, months even.  But then I’ll go away and visit friends for a couple of weeks and not write at all.  It’s just the way I’ve always done things, and I find it allows me to fully appreciate and take pleasure in whatever ‘surge’ I’m channeling at the time.  It also means that sometimes I won’t be able to blog, but that hopefully whilst I’m not blogging/writing, I’m away doing something that will later give me inspiration to write.

In short, sometimes I may disappear for a while.  But unless my blog starts growing teeth and snapping at me, kind of like Hagrid’s The Monster Book of Monsters in Harry Potter, then you can rest assure that I will return.

Rah!

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to sharing all the exciting things that have been happening in Katy land.  I think my brain is about to self combust with all the built up adventures and stories I have been storing in there.  Prepare for the onslaught.

~storytelling nomad~

Favorite book you read in school

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 25

I tossed up between Looking for Alibrandi and Pride and Prejudice, but ended up choosing box number three: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Although I only vaguely remember the text now, I am somewhat more appreciative of the fact that back in the day, “studying the text” translated to most of us as “hiring the movie”, which, as a result, introduced me to the excellent 1962 film adaptation with Gregory Peck, which I still take great pleasure in watching today.  I continue to marvel at the acting prowress of Mary Badham who at the age of 10, played Scout.  When I compare her performance to the child actors of today, of whom there are far too many to ridicule, I am quite astounded.

Scout and Atticus Finch, played by Mary Badham & Gregory Peck

I suppose I have sort of cheated with this one, in remembering more of the movie than the book.  But to be honest, it more accurately represents my High School reading history.  I always loved to read, but it is no secret that I have gained a new appreciation for good literature since leaving school, and came to respect the language and stories more once the threat of study and accompanying essays had subsided.

~storytelling nomad~