October 28, 2014

Book Launch: Atlantia by Ally Condie


Tonight, a friend had tickets to Ally Condie's book launch for ATLANTIA, her new YA novel set under the ocean, and invited me to tag along. I haven't read any of Condie's work yet, but I fell in love with her and plan to remedy that soon. Here were the highlights for me:

1. She shared a bunch of photos and stories about where her inspirations came from. It was fun for me to see the creative process of someone who has done so well, and having heard from other authors who are kind of scattered in their process, I loved hearing from someone who seems methodical in her research, what she includes in her books, and why she feels they're important. 

2. When asked about her favorite authors, her inspirations, and writers who have taught her about craft, her interests were all over the place. It was obvious that she is widely read--from fairy tales to science fiction to classics to religious texts to poetry, she is no slouch in the literary department. It gave me a sense that YA is in good hands, and it's not just dumbed-down genre fiction like some people believe.

3. Apparently, her books have a lot of themes about difficult choices, conflicted characters, good vs. evil, etc. She was asked hard questions about how her own feelings are manifested in her writing and how she reconciles questions of faith. This is something that always fascinates me about authors and writing, so I was grateful she didn't shy away from the questions. She said something very profound--something to the effect of, we want to identify teens as having crises of faith, but whenever you have faith, there's always a crisis. You're always trying to determine where you fit and what you believe. I loved that personally, but I also think it speaks volumes for why YA is important. Not just about faith, but teens figuring out where they stand on any issue.

4. Her husband and kids were there, and it was obvious they were her biggest fans. Her husband laughed the loudest at all of her jokes and seemed so proud of her. I had a bit of an emotional moment when she apologized to them for being crazy sometimes while writing, but said, at the end of the day, they were the most important and she loved them more than anything. I think it's important for authors to acknowledge that finding balance between writing and "real life" will always be difficult, but both are worthwhile.

Anyway, it was a really good launch. I loved Condie as a person and look forward to trying out her books in the near future.

October 20, 2014

The 22 Rules to Perfect Storytelling, According to Pixar

I’m pretty sure that most people saw Emma Coats’ Pixar rules of storytelling a couple of years ago.

Well, now you can find those points of great storytelling on Pixar images for printing or as quick reminders of her bullet points.

Here are a few of my favorites:
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Now, go check out the rest HERE!

Which are your favorites? Why?

October 7, 2014

October: Morbid Fixations and Creative Inspirations

For those of us who love horror, October is a wonderful month. It’s the one time of year when our morbid interests tend to be socially acceptable, and we can pretend that the faux body parts and gruesome fiction lying around our houses are part of the festivities.

It’s a time when we re-watch the classics—a few of mine include Psycho, Watcher in the Woods, Misery, and The Woman in Black—or have marathons of cult favorites like the Halloween, Friday the 13th, or Saw franchises.

We curl up in warm sweaters with hot cocoa and re-read favorite books and legends from authors like Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, E.A. Poe, Washington Irving, and H.P. Lovecraft. Or we venture into newly terrifying discoveries.

October, for me, is about reveling in the sinister and macabre and unknown. I adore haunted houses and ghost hunts and costume parties and decorating. Much like my writing, those things provide ways for me to play with ideas. They’re outlets for discovery and questioning in a fun and non-threatening way.

Decorating, for example, is something I look forward to all year. Here’s a glimpse of our house last year:
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I’m convinced that it will either make my kids the coolest, bravest kids ever, or it will make them serial killers. I have no idea which.

But even if you’re NOT into horror, if you’re at this website, then you likely have an interest in speculative fiction. And all people who enjoy the speculative arts, I believe, have an edge during this time of year—Steampunk has one of the coolest aesthetics I’ve ever seen, and it inherently wants to reconcile the past with the future. Science Fiction questions life, the universe, and everything that crawls from the darkest corners of our minds and worlds. Fantasy pits good against evil in unconventional ways. All of those are excellent fodder for creativity.

October is also the month before NaNoWriMo, which means that many of us are trying to come up with new concepts or outline ideas in preparation for sprinting toward the 50k word count in November.

So, even if you don’t love October or fall or Halloween, find the aspects that interest you—whether it’s the cooler weather, crisp leaves, bizarre costumes, excited children, hayrides, pumpkins, or migratory patterns of geese—and let them inspire your creativity.

I’d challenge you to write a small piece with as much sensory detail as you can think of. Explain your own fears in a visceral way, or explore a character with phobias you’ve never understood. Focus on the sights, smells, and tastes that are unique to autumn. Empathize with a hibernating bear. Whatever it is, let yourself feel alive through your writing in this unique time of year.

Here are a couple of links with some really cool writing prompts that might get your creative juices flowing:

Fall Writing Prompts or Horror Writing Prompts

What about you? Do you have a favorite horror book or movie? Or is there something new you’re excited to try this year? What are your favorite things about October?

(originally posted here.)