The Prydain Project

Thirty years after first devouring Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books, I'm rereading them to see if the magic is still there. If you've arrived at this blog because you loved Prydain as a kid, I hope you’ll enjoy the chance to revisit it along with me. To read the recaps in order, start here: "The Book of Three," Chapter 1

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Augusten Burroughs on why to write every day

I had the privilege of hearing Augusten Burroughs speak at the Atlanta Writers Club Centennial Celebration on Saturday night. His keynote speech took the form of a Q&A session, which was a little disappointing to me: he’s such an excellent storyteller that I would have preferred more of a monologue… or even a reading from one of his books.

But it was still enjoyable to hear him give writerly advice, and some of his answers to the questions from the audience had a surprising twist. For instance, he recommends writing every day, but not just for the reasons that we’re usually given (like keeping your creative juices flowing and building your word count). Instead, he thinks daily writing is worthwhile if only to build your hand strength, so that your pen or computer keyboard can keep up with your thoughts. I loved this answer because it’s so simple and practical.

Today, I mark one year of free writing every day for 10 minutes (well, almost every day; I usually take weekends off). I’ve always kept a journal, but I used to write in it sporadically – once a month or so. Last year, at the suggestion of my career coach, I made a commitment to free-write for 10 minutes a day, and it has now become a ritual, just like brushing my teeth (but don’t worry, I don’t take weekends off from that)! I sit on my bed and write longhand, in a notebook, about whatever comes to mind. This morning, I wrote about what the front yard looked like when I let the dogs out to pee at 7 a.m. Knowing that no one’s going to read what I write is extremely liberating; when I mangle my sentence structure or choose phrases that don’t seem particularly literary, I don’t beat myself up about it. I just keep the pen moving, putting my inner critic on hold for 10 minutes.

Because I only write for 10 minutes at a time – typically filling about one page in my college-ruled notebook – I don’t have to shake my aching hand out at the end, like I do when I write longhand for longer periods. But I do find that my handwriting is steadier and my pen moves more easily across the page than it used to, so perhaps I have in fact built hand strength through this daily practice. Or maybe it has more to do with the mental strength that comes with keeping a commitment and permanently transforming one small aspect of my life. Whatever your reasons, I’d encourage a daily free-writing practice if you’re not doing it already. And if you have any suggestions for sticking with it (even on weekends), let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What I'm Reading: Belong to Me

Just finished Marisa de los Santos' "Belong to Me," the sequel to "Love Walked In," which I found difficult to enjoy because its dual POV distracted me from getting lost in the story. When I saw that "Belong to Me" is divided into chapters told from the POV of not just two, but three characters, I was worried that this conceit would compound the problems I had with its predecessor. To my pleasant surprise, it had the opposite effect. By telling two-thirds of the book in limited third person and reducing Cornelia’s first-person narrative to every third chapter, de los Santos somehow creates a balance, like putting the third leg on a stool. There’s still an excess of telling vs. showing, especially in Cornelia’s relationship with her husband, which I think protests a bit too much about how profound and amazing their love for one another is, while rarely backing up that assertion through the dialogue and actions of the characters. And Clare, who thankfully has a smaller role in this book, still seems unrealistically saintly and preternaturally mature (though I did find her more believable as a 14-year-old than an 11-year-old).

But the book’s strongest asset is the newly introduced character of Piper Truitt. The sorority-girl-turned-super-suburbanite wife and mother, she’s the one who has it all together, from her perfect hair to her perfectly portioned treats for the kids -- the one you love to hate but inside whose mind you’d give anything to peek. She's like a sympathetic version of Hilly from "The Help." Obsessed with maintaining appearances through rigorous regulation of both her inner and outer life, Piper sees her illusions of control come crashing down when she’s faced with the devastating illness of her best friend and rock, Elizabeth. Unfortunately, her storyline gets wrapped up a little too early to make way for some Cornelia-centered drama, but I’d like to read a whole book about Piper.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Better late than never: I'm on Goodreads!

I'm a little embarrassed that it took me so long to discover this wonderful resource for writers and authors. (What can I say... I've always been a bit of a late bloomer!) But I'm pleased to say that I now have an author profile on Goodreads! So far I've only spent a few hours (undoubtedly the first of many!) on the site, and I suspect I haven't even scratched the surface of what it has to offer. Very exciting!

If you've read "Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself (and Spiders)," I'd love it if you'd stop by and leave me a rating and/or a review. And if you have any books to recommend, I'd love to hear about those too!