Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Onward

Hey! So I'm actually working on writing lately (and a million other projects, if you're interested in one, go ahead and request to follow me on Instagram @asherlockwrites), so haven't had a lot of brain power to devote to blogging. I always have such high hopes to make this thing BIG! Alas, I just do whatever I want like I usually do, share a little slice of my love of reading and writing with a handful of you.

So let's do this!

Writing

As I've said I've been writing! Well kind of. I've been working a poem project thing (see my Instagram), thinking of editing a short story, aand working on some not-writing writing work like character worksheets and other world-building stuff. I'm curious if you're into writing, how do you block out time for that kind of writing extras - research and world-building and all that stuff? That stuff that feels a whole lot like procrastination to me a lot of the time, so I avoid it because I'm not getting word count. Which is really dumb because that kind of stuff is really important. Thinking through stuff is actually a huge part of writing, it's just that if that's all you do then you're in trouble. It's a balance, I guess. Why does this writing stuff have to be so haaard??

But I'm actually waiting on feedback from a couple of people anyway so don't want to dig in to another rewrite quite yet, so this is the perfect time to spend on all that extra - excuse me, essential - stuff. And it's fun! I even have Pinterest inspiration boards for my made-up town and a bunch of my characters. 

If you are writing, researching and world-building all at the same time though, how do you divide it up? Or do you do one before the other? Go back and edit later? Tell me your secrets!!

Reading

I finished A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers like two weeks ago and I'm STILL NOT OVER IT. It was so much fun. My review of it made both of my parents immediately buy the ebook so check it out! I did manage to finish Banana Heart Summer by Merlinda Bobis after which is a beautiful, delectable story that made me crave aalll the Filipino food, but now I'm in a reading slump. I think I might DNF the book I'm trying to get into now and skip on to the next one.

Life

 

What else has happened recently? Well, in April I graduated university, in May a friend and I started to talk about booking a trip for the summer, and in June I quit the part-time job I've had for the last year to travel for the summer, and my last shift is in two weeks! Crazy. It's been fun not doing school and working part time and having more time to spend with friends and to write (or avoid writing with other things, let's be honest). I have no idea what the future will hold past the end of August but I'm feeling okay about it for now!

What have you been up to? What have you been reading? What are your best writing tips?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Review: The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

I finished reading this book a week ago and I am STILL suffering from a book hangover. Nothing will ever be as magical and wonderful as this world and these characters, I'm sure of it... every other book and potential book has a grimy sheen. Life will never be the same.




The title of this book is basically what the book is about: it's a fantastic sci-fi romp about a multi-species crew on a ship on a long journey to a small, angry planet. And it was SO GOOD. Hands down the best book I've read in 2018 so far.

The Long Way isn't really an action-packed adventure until closer to the end, but the rest of it is filled with everything I could have ever wanted. Packed with excellent characterization and character development, intense and mind-blowing world-building, and, one of the most important aspects of science fiction, a sly commentary on our world as we know it. A lot of the book's theme focused on cross-cultural (or cross-species) interactions and how we learn from other cultures, and as a Cultural Studies major I was LOVING IT.

The characters though were definitely the best part and I wished I could spend all my time with them. They were so interesting and didn't play to type which was awesome. There’s the soft-hearted and pacifist space captain Ashby (I love the idea of a pacifist captain rather than the typical hard-hearted egotistical-but-loveable loose cannon), the nervous newbie but ultimately super strong and confident clerk Rosemary, the friendship between two techs Kizzy and Jenks that is so intense but never romantic (there's a scene at the end between them that was the cause of crying), a cool lizard pilot, a Navigator that thinks on a different plane, and a cook-slash-doctor who is one of the last of his kind. And they all obviously love and support each other so much. The whole book is pretty much about this misfit found family, and I am so here for it. 

The best books make you laugh out loud, cry, AND question the universe, and The Long Way managed to expertly accomplish all three.  Go read it right now. I promise you won't regret it.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Scared of Being Afraid

It was 2010. I sat beside my parents in a room in the library downtown. The room had black walls and a black carpet, and was filled with black chairs that held a handful of people. The room was dark, but it felt official. There was a podium in front of four or five rows of chairs. A woman got up and stood behind the podium, and began to announce the awards for the short fiction and poetry contest. I was there because I had won third place in the young writer's short fiction contest. Each winner had been asked if they wanted to read their piece aloud. I had said no, although I had a folded up copy of my story in my jacket pocket, just in case.



As the evening wore on, I listened enraptured as all these writers, young and old, shared their work and a let a little piece of themselves out into the world. They invited us, the audience, into their perspective with their words. When it was my turn to receive my award, I took the envelope handed to me and left the podium as quickly as I could. It ended up that I was one of the only two winners that didn't read my piece aloud. Later, when I emptied the folded and crumpled story from my pocket, I imagined how I would have read my piece, how I might have invited people into my world. Next time, I promised myself. Next time I would do it.

***

Next time turned out to be two years ago. I had submitted a poem to my university's small, under the radar literary journal, and they were launching that year's issue with a reading. All contributors were invited to read their work. Trying to ignore the intense self-doubt and anxiety, I said I would share. 

The literary journal's launch was small and intimate, perfect for a timid writer and first time reader. It was held in an older wing of the school that was filled with couches, cushy armchairs, and a volunteer-run cafe that often lost customers to the newer, shinier cafe in the new library, but thrived through the love and commitment of die-hard hipsters with a love of independent business and school spirit. In the evening for the launch, the hall was filled only with writers and readers and those who loved those writers and readers, maybe fifteen people total. I sat with a couple of friends on a couch and listened. It was mesmerizing to hear each person's unique stories, filled with their own incredibly distinct voices. All kinds of pieces were accepted for publication in the literary journal, and it was delightful to experience all of them, to see how these people were in the midst of developing their expression, just like me. 

Then it was my turn. Trying to keep my voice steady, I read my poem. That moment was nothing special; it was the moment after that mattered. The moment when the readings ended, the snacks were brought out, and people began to talk to each other. Each person's writing had initiated a conversation, and I was pleasantly surprised that my poem was also a part of it. Writing is so often such a solitary activity, I had forgotten that it could communicate so much to others in ways that normal conversation often can't. The launch ended, everyone dispersing, analysis and praise turning back to less soulful conversations. And all I could think was that I needed to do this again. 

***
I am not very good at sharing my writing. I like to hoard it, because in my hands it is safe. I don't understand how people constantly share their work on social media, put up summaries of their works in progress on their blog, or post their work on various websites or forums. For a long time, I have been too afraid of being criticized, or not expressing myself in the way that I want. I make excuses. It's not ready yet. It's too personal. And then I put it off and put it off and it becomes a larger and larger wall that's harder to get over. But then I miss out on the experiences on the other side of that wall - the connections, the deeper communication, the opening up of conversations that I would never have otherwise, and other things I haven't had the chance to experience yet.



I recently read YouTuber and singer/songwriter dodie's book of personal essays, Secrets for the Mad. One of my favourite chapters is actually the chapter that she didn't write, where she has one of her old friends from high school write a chapter from his perspective about her concert. It turns into a reflection on how dodie has made a successful career for herself. He talks about how a lot of her life and career is about being vulnerable and sharing very personal aspects of her life, whether that be through her songs or her YouTube channel. He says that "Dodie succeeds in creating beautiful songs because she isn't scared of being afraid. The difference between a song that speaks to you and a song that you cringe at is that the success expresses vulnerability without fear" (135). 

Sharing, being vulnerable, putting yourself out there doesn't mean fear goes away, but it does mean you aren't scared of being afraid - of being vulnerable, opening yourself up to critique but also to so much more. 

One of my goals this year is to share more of my own writing. I've been starting slowly, but you can check out some if it here, or on Twitter where I have been trying to participate weekly in #1linewed. And, speaking of sharing writing, I am on the hunt for a few more critique partners and/or beta readers! If you're interested in reading my work or swapping work, comment below with your email or email me at asherlockwrites(at)gmail(dot)com and we'll see if we're compatible. 

Further reading about my writing struggles: Book Blogging, Sharing Writing, and Other Scary Things // The Future // Begin Again

Monday, May 7, 2018

Review: What to Do When I'm Gone by Suzy Hopkins and Hallie Bateman


What to Do When I'm Gone is a mixture of memoir, providing comfort to those who have recently lost loved ones, and humourous anecdotes and advice just for growing up and life in general. It is (kind of) a graphic novel that includes numbered instructions, written to a daughter by her mother, for what to do after her mother dies. 



What to Do When I'm Gone manages to strike a perfect balance between all aspects, managing to be both touching and funny. When I was reading this book, my grandfather had passed away not that long ago and I was about to graduate, and it somehow was able to address both feelings of loss and anxiety about the future. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going in, but I closed the book feeling calm and at peace, as if I was hugged by my mom. It was such a comforting and enjoyable book to read.

It's a quick read, definitely more of a coffee table or gift book than anything. I would recommend this book as a gift to a loved one, someone who has just suffered a loss, your mother, or just someone who needs some guidance in their life. I think I’m going to keep it on my shelf to reread every now and again.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Review: Land Mammals and Sea Creatures by Jen Neale

I really, really wanted to like this book. The opening scene of the whale beaching hooked me immediately. The description of it was gorgeous and spine-tingling.



Land Mammals and Sea Creatures is set in a small town on an island on the west coast of Canada. It follows Julie, who has just returned to town to take care of her mentally ill father, a veteran who suffers from PTSD. Things really start getting strange, though, when a whale ends up on the shore, a stranger comes to town, and animals start dying everywhere.

The description of animal life coming and going is by far the strength of this book. The uncanny deaths of various animals occur throughout, and the way that Neale is able to portray these gruesome scenes in vivid detail is amazing.

However, I just wasn’t in the right head space for the kind of message this book was trying to get across – it was just too sad and frankly, disgusting, for me to really enjoy. I realize that is the point and if you aren’t quite as sensitive a reader as me you might be awed by how Neale writes a perfect picture of a decaying town infested with the smell of whale rot, and then uses these natural pictures to attempt to say something about grief. For me, at the time I read it, it was just too much about death without really going anywhere beyond that, and I just want more hope in my books at the moment. However, perhaps for someone who needs to come to terms with letting go as Julie and her father do, it would be the book for them. 

Land Mammals and Sea Creatures comes out May 2018 from ECW Press. 

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