Dec 8, 2014

LOOKING FOR NEW WRITING FRIENDS

I have been posting on ALL YOU CAN WRITE for nearly two years now, and I just finished a thorough review of all its contents starting from Day One up to last week.

My dream is to connect with other writers, get their feedback on my posts and visit their blogs in return. I am looking for travel companions in this fabulous journey that is becoming a writer. In September 2014 I started a second blog on creative writing, www.deagostibus.it, dedicated to Italian speakers, and right away I got 2000 views a month and I'm up to nearly 40 comments per post in less than three months.

I have been trying to understand why ALL YOU CAN WRITE has not been able to reach that goal in over one year and it's rare that I get one or two comments on a post. Is it the language barrier? Is it the extremely large amount of blogs on creative writing available in English? Have I chosen the wrong blogs to follow, or not put enough effort into finding the right ones?

Following experts' advice, I made friends on Google+ and Twitter with hundreds of unknown writers, but that has definitely NOT made a significant difference in the number of followers. 
The Write Practice recommends ten steps to writing a successful blog post:
1. Choose your premise. (Not sure what your premise is yet? Here’s a blog post designed to help you figure out your premise).
2. Start writing. (Just write)
3. Fill in your template. (perfect” blog post template).
4. Write your headings. (smart bloggers use headings).
5. Begin in the middle, with your core points. (the “perfect” blog post template).
6. What’s the problem? (make sure that readers keep reading after the first few sentences).
7. Make the problem harder. (show why this problem is so difficult to solve).
8. Conclude by wrapping up the lead. (conclusion)
9. Catch your readers’ attention with your headline (the most important step!)
10. Read, re-write, and proofread
Let me add that the biggest satisfaction in having a blog is to make new friends. In the next months I will spend more time looking for new blogs to follow hoping to connect with other writers. If you share my hopes and interests, please leave me a note in the comments or send me an email at lisafobia (at) gmail (dot) com

Have a good novel!


Nov 17, 2014

WRITING EXERCISES







One of the fastest way to improve your writing skills is by writing and then writing some more, not just when you are inspired, but even when you are not. The routine of writing every day helps to keep your mind sharp and ready to be creative. Sometimes it seems impossible to stay inspired, and the ideas seem to dry up. A great way to challenge yourself and expand on your writing skill is by the use of creative writing exercises and writing prompts. 



WRITING EXERCISES


1. Backwards storytelling

 Write a story from the end to the start, drag your audience from the present to the past as you explore the events leading up to the start of you story. 

2. Point of view

Select a short piece of your writing and rewrite the entire thing, using a new point of view. For example if the piece is written in first person try to rewrite it in third person.

3. Character hop
Select a short piece of your writing and rewrite it from a different character’s perspective.  
4. Conflict
Choose two fictional characters (new or familiar to you and your writing) then create a topic or event that would place these two characters into a verbal argument, where each feels that they are completely right. Write in a way that both you and your reader would be unsure who is right, using the verbal sparring as a platform to expose the motivations and emotions of both characters. 

5. Memory

Writing from what we know and have experienced in our lives can add depth and a certain realism that can sometimes be hard to recreate when writing solely fiction. Think back to the first memory that you have, give yourself time to lose yourself in the moment that your mind recalls for you. Then pick up the pen and write with the voice of the child you were, keep your writing on that path, use a child’s language and understanding.

6. Using your own emotions
Think of the thing that you are most afraid of, of a situation that could happen but hasn’t, then write about it the form of a short story.

7. Flash fiction
Take one of your short stories and turn it into a piece of flash fiction (under 800 words)  A simple way to do this by opening a new copy of your story in a word document and eliminating every word that is not 100% needed to propel the story forward. 
Have a good novel!

Nov 3, 2014

DIES SLOWLY by MARTHA MEDEIROS

I recently read a magnificent poem that I would like to share with you today. 
First I found it on one of the italian blogs I follow. I looked online for an English version and I found many. Some websites claim the author is the Chilean wonderful poet Pablo Neruda. 
The real author is the Brazilian author Martha Medeiros as confirmed by the Pablo Neruda Foundation.






Martha Medeiros, Brazilian author








Dies Slowly

He who becomes the slave of habit,
who follows the same routes every day, 
who never changes pace, 
who does not risk and change the color of his clothes, 
who does not speak and does not experience,
dies slowly.

He or she who shuns passion,
who prefers black on white, 
dotting ones "it’s" rather than a bundle of emotions, the kind that make your eyes glimmer, 
that turn a yawn into a smile, 
that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings,
dies slowly.

He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy, 
who is unhappy at work, 
who does not risk certainty for uncertainty, 
to thus follow a dream, 
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives, 
die slowly.

He who does not travel, who does not read, 
who does not listen to music, 
who does not find grace in himself, 
she who does not find grace in herself, 
dies slowly.

He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem, 
who does not allow himself to be helped, 
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops, 
dies slowly.

He or she who abandon a project before starting it, who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn't know, he or she who don't reply when they are asked something they do know,
die slowly.

Let's try and avoid death in small doses, 
reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead
to the attainment of a splendid happiness.



Oct 22, 2014

Inspiring words by Rebecca Solnit


From "The Faraway Nearby" by Rebecca Solnit


as introduced by brainpickings



Like many others who turned into writers, I disappeared into books when I was very young, disappeared into them like someone running into the woods. What surprised and still surprises me is that there was another side to the forest of stories and the solitude, that I came out that other side and met people there. Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. I sometimes think the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working. Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone.


The object we call a book is not the real book, but its potential, like a musical score or seed. It exists fully only in the act of being read; and its real home is inside the head of the reader, where the symphony resounds, the seed germinates. A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another


I had started out in silence, written as quietly as I had read, and then eventually people read some of what I had written, and some of the readers entered my world or drew me into theirs. I started out in silence and traveled until I arrived at a voice that was heard far away — first the silent voice that can only be read, and then I was asked to speak aloud and to read aloud. When I began to read aloud another voice, once I hardly recognized, emerged from my mouth. Maybe it was more relaxed, because writing is speaking to no one, and even when you’re reading to a crowd, you’re still in that conversation with the absent, the faraway, the not-yet-born, the unknown and the long-gone for whom writers write, the crowd of the absent who hover all around the desk.







Have a good novel!

Oct 13, 2014

INSPIRING WORDS FOR WRITERS by ISAAC ASIMOV











I made up my mind long ago to follow one cardinal rule in all my writing—to be clear. I have given up all thought of writing poetically or symbolically or experimentally, or in any of the other modes that might (if I were good enough) get me a Pulitzer prize. I would write merely clearly and in this way establish a warm relationship between myself and my readers, and the professional critics—Well, they can do whatever they wish.




From my close observation of writers… they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.

It is the writer who might catch the imagination of young people, and plant a seed that will flower and come to fruition.

Writing is a lonely job. Even if a writer socializes regularly, when he gets down to the real business of his life, it is he and his typewriter or word processor. No one else is or can be involved in the matter.

It's the writing that teaches you. It's the rotten stories that make it possible for you to write the good stories eventually. Do you think the story I wrote at the age of eleven was any good? Of course not. I had to keep writing after that, on and off, for ten years before I could write
“Nightfall.” Is that too long a time to struggle? Hell, it takes longer than that to learn to be a good surgeon, and being a good surgeon isn't nearly as exciting as being a good writer.

Thinking is the activity I love best, and writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers. I can write up to 18 hours a day. Typing 90 words a minute, I've done better than 50 pages a day. Nothing interferes with my concentration. You could put on an orgy in my office and I wouldn't look up. Well, maybe once.


If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.

More quotes by Isaac Asimov

Have a good novel!

Oct 6, 2014

The Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction










The 2014 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction contest has just opened for submissions. 


Like every year, participants are invited to send their stories, previously published or unpublished. Simultaneous submissions are accepted. 
The winner this year will receive $1,000 prize and the winning story will be published in The Lascaux Review. The winner and all finalists will be published in The 2015 Lascaux Prize Anthology. Two copies of the anthology will be supplied to every writer appearing in it. 
Entry fee is $10. Authors may enter more than once. 
Length should not exceed 10,000 words. All genres and styles are welcome.
Deadline for entries is 31 December. 
Have a good novel!

Sep 29, 2014

ALL YOU CAN BOOKS







Last month I accidentally came across a website called 
ALL YOU CAN BOOKS





Its database contains more than 30.000 Audiobooks and eBooks available to download and read on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. 

The registration process is simple and fast, just type in your email address, choose a password and confirm your identity by clicking on the link they send to your email address.

The virtual library is vaste, divided in subcategories such as 
Top 100
Recommended
Biography
Self-help
Memories
Fiction
Historical
Thriller

and so on. There is also a search button if you have a book in mind, the results will include similar choices as well as what you are looking for.

The service is free for 30 days, then it costs around 20 CAD a month and it allows you to download as many books as you want. If you decide to cancel the subscription, you get to keep the books you downloaded during the free trial period.

I am always weary of free subscription but I had a good experience with ALL YOU CAN BOOKS.
For a couple of weeks I tried to find books I was interested in and downloaded audiobooks and e-books from the recommended section. I finally decided that I wasn't interested in keeping the service active, as the books provided are not the kind I'm looking for (recently published chick-lit and biographies).

With a short and simple phone call to the Customer Service (no questions asked) I was able to cancel the subscription and keep the books I downloaded during the free trial period.

It's definitely worth a try.

Have a good novel!



Sep 23, 2014

THE UNIVERSE VERSUS ALEX WOODS by GAVIN EXTENCE

The Universe Versus Alex Woods










The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
My rating: 5 of 5 stars




I picked this novel from a newsagent at the airport, I saw the cover, read the title, paid for it. I didn't know what the plot was, I had never heard of the author, I just had a gut feeling I would have loved it. And I sure did.
Chapeau to the publishing house for the presentation, and to Gavin Extence for a first novel that leaves you with the feeling of wanting more of the same.


The plot

A meteorite struck a ten year old boy changing the course of his future. His puberty is punctuated with books, science, an unusual mother, and an elder grumpy neighbor who will soon become his best friend. In the face of life events, the boy and the war veteran will read Kurt Vonnegut, grow indoor marijuana plants, support each other and face one terminal trip to Switzerland, where they will say goodbye without tears, but knowing they will never forget each other.



the universe versus alex woodsThe author


Gavin Extence is a British writer, husband, father and chess player. He has a PHD in Film Studies and he's hopefully already working on his next novel.

Your comments are always appreciated.

Have a good novel!

Sep 16, 2014

New Voices at the Festival of the Written Arts

festival of the written arts







 Kathryn Para is the author of the novel Lucky, a story about a journalist in the Middle East.
festival of the written arts














Andrea Routley is the author of Jane and the Whales, a collection of dark short stories.








The Festival of the Written Arts

Today is the last appointment with the authors who participated to the Festival of the Written Arts in Sechelt, BC, on 14-17th August 2014. First I posted about the reading by Aislinn Hunter, Bill Gaston and Audrey Thomas. Last week we met the charismatic and enchanting Dianne Whelan. Finally, today I would like to introduce you two new voices of the Canadian writing scene, two different styles for two different personalities, interviewed by CBC radio host Sheryl MacKay.

Kathryn Para

She speaks in a silky, fluent voice, her hands move  in slow and precise gestures. It seems she is been doing this all her life, instead she is introducing her first novel, "Lucky", winner of the second Search for the Great BC Novel. The story is about a female journalist from Vancouver who comes back after a reportage in the Middle East and suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What really caught my attention about this author is that reviews of her book glorify her ability to put into words war scenes and crude realities but during the Q&A session Para candidly admits she's never even visited the Middle East. Her research was done sitting comfortably at home, watching movies and reading online. 

I was left wondering if I would ever write a novel about a country I've never been to. Traveling is my biggest passion and I am lucky enough to have seen 32 countries up to now. I hope I will see many more before I die, it's kind of my goal for the future. This explains my interest in the matter.

"Can you write a proper description of a country you have never been to?"

Before moving to Canada I had very little information about the geography and the history of the Country. I found all the information I needed online. 

I also knew a few Canadians and I had the sense that people were kind and considerate, open to other cultures, lovers of sport and party. After two years living in BC I can say these stereotypes turned out to be true for the most part.

There are also hundreds of habits and beliefs I wouldn't have never grasped if I hadn't come to see for myself. Just for fun, I will list some examples:

- Canadians drive slowly and respect the safety distance from the car in front of them (that does NOT happen in Italy!)

- Canadians have a great knowledge of nutrition, health foods and diets (that is NOT what appears in the American movies)

- Canadians live in harmony with nature and know how to respect the environment (I could have found this information online, but it's not the same as meeting a bear face to face).

In my opinion, it is advisable to write about what you know about, therefore write about a country you have been to, or use your novel as an excuse to pack and go traveling.

Andrea Routley

Young and energetic, constantly looking for an active interaction with her audience, Andrea Routley appears different from the dark description of her collection of short stories, "Jane and the Whales". She reads two extracts from two different stories, the first sounds like a provocative, sexual, disturbing encounter, the second is more sad, dark, the smell of death is all around it. Sheryl MacKay asks about her passion for writing and Andrea explains how she has always been filling journals with ideas, songs, poems. Now she is trying to turn her passion into a career. 

Many of you reading this page share Andrea's dream... I sure do! Congratulations to Andrea for being published, and good luck to all of us who still haven't!


Have a good novel!

Sep 9, 2014

Dianne Whelan speaks at the Festival of the Written Arts

festival of the written arts









Dianne Whelan is the author of 40 days at Base Camp







The festival of the Written Arts


For the past three weeks I've been telling you about the Festival of the Written Arts that took place in Sechelt, BC, on 14-17 August 2014. I have been participating to five of the twenty-one events of the weekend, it has been such a rewarding and inspiring experience that I decided I would like to share it with you. First I posted about the reading by Aislinn Hunter and Bill Gaston. Last week I introduced you to Audrey Thomas. Today we will meet an incredible artist and fantastic woman. Fasten your seat belts, and get ready for fireworks: say hi to Dianne Whelan.

Happy, energetic, inspiring, charming. These are only few of the Dianne's virtues, Her voice is strong, her posture is determined, new ideas are concocting in her brain faster than she can tell them. I had the fortune of meeting Dianne in person, and when I told her I wanted to be a writer she just looked at me and said: "Do it! Do it now! Go do it!"
Her presentation of a difficult and dangerous journey was charming, honest, proactive, the best event of the Festival. While she was explaining about her trip she also talked us through a slide show of pictures she took during her experience in Nepal and also the trailer of the movie that was made about it. Dianne Whelan is a 360 degrees artist, she is a talented photographer, director, writer and dreamer. 


dianne whelan

40 days at Base Camp - the book

Each spring, over eight hundred climbers attempt to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. The conditions are challenging, and without warning can become life-threatening. Some make it to the top of what is considered the world's most majestic mountain, but others are not so lucky, and in the attempt to reach the elusive summit, many more have tragically lost their lives. Not all are recovered, their bodies left to the mountain.

In the spring of 2010, 18,000 feet above sea level, documentary filmmaker Dianne Whelan immersed herself in the challenging and captivating world of base camp on Mt. Everest.

In this personal and eye-opening exposé, BASE CAMP: 40 DAYS ON EVEREST, Whelan shares gripping stories of Maoist rebels, avalanches and dead bodies surfacing out of a dying glacier. From her perspective at base camp Whelan interviews climbers, doctors and Sherpas all living for months on end in the belly of the mountain as they wait for a weather window to summit the top of the world. Woven into the personal stories of these climbers is the devastating truth of the human impact on the mountain and the eerie and unforeseen effects of climate change. Experts believe there are over 250 bodies buried on the path from base camp to the peak of Mt. Everest. With the glacier melting and moving at over four inches a day, the toll of the human desire to conquer the mountain is slowly and irreversibly surfacing at base camp. (source: Goodreads)

Dianne Whelan's dreams


During the Q&A session, when asked what she plans to do next, Dianne left the audience speechless by saying she intends to face a two year trip across the North of Canada, known as the Great Northern Trail, through inhospitable and wild land. Well, good luck Dianne, we look forward to hear of  your new adventures!

What do you think of this author? Would you face danger and harsh living conditions for such a long period of time? Are you aware of the devastating human impact on the Everest Mountain? Your comments are always welcome.

Have a good novel!

Sep 3, 2014

Audrey Thomas speaks at the Festival of the Written Arts

festival of the written arts



The festival of the Written Arts













In the '60s, Audrey Thomas has lived in Ghana on the Gold Coast of Africa, and that's where her new novel is based: Local Customs.











For the past two weeks we spoke about the Festival of the Written Arts that took place in Sechelt, BC, on 14-17 August 2014. I have been participating to five of the twenty-one events of the weekend, it has been such a rewarding and inspiring experience that I decided I would like to share it with you. First I posted about the reading by Aislinn Hunter. Last week I introduced to you the second guest: Bill Gaston. Today we are speaking of a peculiar and extremely interesting woman: Audrey Thomas.


A peculiar encounter


Audrey Thomas is not your classic author reading extracts from her book behind a black polished podium. She is sitting at a coffee table, introducing her story in a slow and silky voice, as if she had just come over for tea at an old friend's house. The first half of her allotted hour is dedicated to random stories about her private life and some newspaper cutting containing unusual advertisements, that she reads out loud all excited. She tells the captivated audience how she got run over by a trolley last week and her left foot toes looked like eggplants. She shares the memory of a Labrador puppy she trained for a while years ago and how she felt the need to do some volunteering back then. In passing, we come to know she has lived in Ghana for a short period in the sixties and that she has the habit of marking the new pens with a tip of nail polish.
My natural reaction is to look around at the audience, every one is listening silently and nodding politely to this unexpected book presentation. I wonder how Audrey would react in front of an Italian audience, usually loud and full of sarcasm if the speaker doesn't keep up with the expectations.

18 books since 1965


Audrey Thomas has started publishing in 1965 and since then she has written 18 books. This information is hardly believable if you consider the woman has spent half an hour to get started on what we have gathered here today for (I drove 40 minutes just for this one hour event, and up to this moment I only heard of pens and puppies). Her 18th book, Local Customs, is set in Ghana, it's about a woman who dies for unknown reasons, and it's been written by hand, just like every other book or poem Audrey Thomas has published in the last 50 years. The audience gasps. When asked why, Audrey explains that she has sheets of paper lying everywhere in her house and she enjoys browsing them at random, finding old poems and groceries list among her novels. She also likes to write in bed when she wakes up, and writing by hand allows some peace before her kids figure out she's awake. 



audrey thomas

Local Customs



In this historical novel based on real events, Letitia Landon and George Maclean marry in June 1838 and sail off to West Africa. Eight weeks later she is dead from what appears to be an overdose of prussic acid. Her doctor and a chemist swear they never prescribed or made up such a solution.

The mystery is never resolved. The ship that brought Letitia's cheerful letters to London was the same one that announced her death. All sorts of rumours fly around. Complicating matters is the presence of Thomas Birch Freeman, a Wesleyan missionary. A letter he writes after Letitia's demise causes trouble for George Maclean. Brodie Cruickshank, in charge of the fort at Anamaboe, a few miles away, also seems to have fallen in love with Letitia.

But what really happened to Letitia in this exotic and dangerous place so far away from her home? (source: Goodreads)


The author


Audrey Thomas was born in America and came to Canada in 1959, she lives on Galiano Island, BC. Her work draws extensively on her experience and observations of the places she has lived. themes include loss of children, loss of love, art and the artist, reality and illusion and the minutiae of women's lives. 


I didn't feel the need to know more about this author, or to get an autographed copy of her book, and meeting her has not sparked my enthusiasm. Luckily, the next week event will be... fireworks!

Have a good novel!

Aug 26, 2014

Bill Gaston speaks at the Festival of the Written Arts

bill gaston
















The festival of the Written Arts


Last week I wrote about the Festival of the Written Arts that took place in Sechelt, BC, just a short ferry ride from Vancouver. I have been participating to five of the twenty-one events of the weekend, it has been such a rewarding and inspiring experience that I decided I would like to share it with you. Last Monday I posted about the first event: Aislinn Hunter. Today I would like to introduce you the second guest I met at the Festival, Bill Gaston.


The World

bill gaston




Imagine this: A recently divorced guy, just a regular guy, is about ready to burn his mortgage but instead accidentally burns his house down, only to discover that for the first time in his life he’s forgotten to pay a bill: his insurance premium. An old friend of his, a middle-aged musician, prepares for her suicide to end the pain of eight years of throat cancer. Her father, who left his family to study Buddhism in Nepal, ends his days in a Toronto facility for Alzheimer’s patients. The three are tied together not only by their bonds of affection, but by a book called The World, written by the old man in his youth. The book, possibly biographical, tells the story of a historian who unearths a cache of letters, written in Chinese, in an abandoned leper colony off the coast of Victoria. 





Questions and Answers with Bill Gaston


The title of Bill Gaston's book is quite bold, it comes natural enquiring about the choice. The question makes him laugh and it seems obvious he's been asked the same many times lately. He quickly explains how one of the characters of the book, suffering from Alzheimer's, has written a book called 'The World' about an abandoned leper colony near Victoria, BC. In that book it's mentioned another book called 'The World'. Sort of a story in the story in the story.

The next question then is: has he really written the story about the leper colony living off the coast of Victoria, where Bill Gaston is presently living and teaching a creative writing course? No, he says he hasn't written that story in full, he didn't feel like it was his thing. He then laughs thinking that it would have probably been a bestseller!

Funny and easygoing, Bill Gaston has a head of thick, white-as-snow hair but he reminds me of a teenager, his expression is Peter-Pan-ish. He doesn't lose his smile during the event, not even when he explains that the research for his book comes from his personal experience. Sadly, both his parents suffered from Alzheimer's, his brother is not well either and the idea of the guy burning down his house comes from something that happened to him in first person. His book is a good example of how we can turn bad luck into something good! When asked how can he speaks so lightly of such deep sad matters, he says that is exactly what is trying to do. These words were inspiring to me, that is exactly what I would like to achieve in my writing and in my life. 

My journal reads: Put a smile on your face, you might convince yourself you are happy.


Juliet was a surprise


bill gaston



Towards the end of the event, Bill Gaston read an extract from a short story collection recently published, Juliet was a surprise. He decided to read the title and the first paragraph of each story, a risky choice that paid off when the audience sat laughing and clapping repeatedly.


I was impressed by the rhythm and energy of this event, it made me think of how being a writer doesn't mean to just sit down and fill the white screen but also implies learning to read in a compelling way, being able to hold an audience for an hour, advertise your work and your person in front of 450 people. Scary, but exciting!






How do you feel about writing of serious matters such as disease and disasters? Is it possible to do so while still enjoying your day-to-day life?
Please share your impressions in the comments below.

Have a good novel!