Writerly Tips: Writing Tools and Mediums

Paper and pen. Even today, I think those two items conjure the image of our writing craft. But, of course,there are so many ways to write, tools to use, and mediums available to hold our creative visions.

The idea that different creative projects might benefit from experimenting with a variety tools and mediums came up during my grad program on several occasions.

For instance,a handwritten story set down on lined paper might come out differently than one written on a computer. Each medium lends itself being with it different impressions and expectations. One professor of mine actually mentioned feeling better able to express herself by writing out her ideas, in pencil, in a small notepad.

I’ve heard of authors who might, as another example, prefer to first write their pieces using a typewriter–before moving onto a computer to help with later drafts.

Even using a pencil, rather than a pen, might make a difference!

My point is that writing is a process where even the way it gets carried out can affect how it develops. So many of us, I know, have specific preferred ways of writing that we make use of quite a bit. And that’s wonderful.

But if we also take opportunities to test out a variety of methods, the results could make for a pleasant surprise.

I’ve discovered that truth a few times now.

Happy writing!

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Literary Studies and Discoveries: Visit the Archive at Project Gutenberg!

Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org) deserves its well-earned position as the largest digital archive available, replete of E-books in the public domain for easy download to most electronic devices. You can find such classics like Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz series (all the books) or Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, but also harder-to-find older works such as J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (the precursor to the beloved children’s tale, Peter Pan). It is a good place to seek out free works, operates as a non-profit organization, and constantly seeks out volunteers to help improve or contribute to their collection.

Founded in 1971 by Michael Hart, Project Gutenberg now has more than 56,000 titles in its archive (an impressive feat).

Interesting facts:

-The first work digitized and added to Project Gutenberg was the United States Declaration of Independence on December 1, 1971.

-Project Gutenberg has CDs and DVDs containing hundreds of their E-books available for download, so users can enjoy them off-line.

-Several countries have their own version of Project Gutenberg, including Project Gutenberg Australia and Project Gutenberg Canada. There is even a Project Gutenberg Europe!

-Project Gutenberg is currently working to support Net Neutrality; in other words, they are taking a stand against network providers who deliberately slow traffic to sites that are not commercial partners with them or essentially penalize users for accessing them.

So I’d recommend going to check them out for some useful and fun reads!

Book Review: Mistress Masham’s Repose by T.H. White

Rating: Highly Recommended
Number of Pages: 231
Published by: Berkley Books

While Tim Hanbury (T.H.) White earned great acclaim for his Once and Future King stories—a skillful retelling of the King Arthur legends launched with the publication of The Sword in the Stone—he authored a wide range of works throughout his writing career. He did translations of Latin works, wrote critical essays on a variety of topics, and tried his hand at a range of literary genres.

Mistress Masham’s Repose (1946) was White’s first children’s book, written first and foremost for Amaryllis Virginia Garnett, the daughter of some of White’s close friends, who went on to become an actress and was the great-niece of writer Virginia Woolf. The evidence on that front is also clear, as Amaryllis’ name comes up a few times as the one the narrator, White, is relating his tale.

The tale of Mistress Masham’s Repose follows an orphaned girl named Maria, whose family owned a great deal of land and property Northamptionshire, England. The area gets introduced as having deep-rooted historical significance. White mentions, for instance, that the poet Alexander Pope visited the area, alongside being host to many other important personages and happenings (which for the sake of not spoiling anything, I will keep from including in full detail here). After losing her parents, Maria gets placed under the care of a cruel-hearted vicar and even crueler governess, Miss Brown—with her only friends being the kindly cook in her home, and an old professor who happens to live on the grounds.

Where the action in the tale picks up is when, during an exploration of her family land, Maria stumbles across a whole community of small people—who share origins with the residents of Lilliput told of in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. The main plot then follows Maria’s efforts in learning how to interact with these unexpected residents, with many references and allusions made to Gulliver’s adventures, while trying to them safe from the vicar and Miss Brown.

A remarkable aspect of Mistress Masham’s Repose is, in fact, White’s focus on expanding upon the legends of the Lilliputians from Swift’s story. Certain characters from fiction have had their tales retold over the years, from different perspectives, because they stick in the popular consciousness (like the Wicked Witch of the West, Dracula, Ebenezer Scrooge, Grendel, etc.). But Mistress Masham’s Repose was the first instance in which I’d seen Lilliputians expanded upon, despite being from a classic work of literature and easily recognizable.

White’s Lilliputian characters did bear similarities to Mary Norton’s Borrowers, particularly in their urgency to stay undiscovered by the “giants” or larger people, yet White actually published his tale half a dozen years earlier (and thus might have even acted as an inspiration for Norton’s stories). So that fact, in itself, is also an astonishing thought.

This seemingly simple (yet actually very complex) children’s story is a charming read, and one rich in historical and literary significance! So it is a read that I would highly recommend, and a book that deserves more recognition as a beautiful example of what White accomplished as an author.

Writer Journal (23March2018)

I have a confession to make: there are books on the shelves of my home that I’ve meant to read for years. Most of them are works that sounded interesting when I bought them from thrift shops or library community bookshops, yet then got so busy with other things that they wound up tucked away or forgotten. It’s a little embarrassing.

On the other hand, there is a certain thrill is browsing your own personal library—on some slow or quiet day—and coming across some undiscovered story you can truly enjoy for the first time.

Such as my experience this past weekend, when while tidying up my shelves I came across T.H. White’s Mistress Masham’s Respose. Whew! I’d only known about T.H. White from having read The Once and Future King, a series of dense and rich retellings of King Arthur and his knights. In fact, the first book in that series, The Sword in the Stone, even basis for Walt Disney’s animated film by the same name.

So Mistress Masham’s Repose was a mystery, and as I delved in I wasn’t sure what to expect, aside from the fact that it didn’t center on the legends of King Arthur. In fact, it turned out to be a children’s book with its own merit and charm—and which also led me on an investigation of the story’s history and White’s background as an author. By the end of the weekend, of course, I feel like I’d gone on a rigorous adventure.

Books truly are amazing. They have whole worlds of stories between their covers, and then you can explore and learn so much from the stories of the authors and circumstances that brought them into existence.

But I’ll leave some of the things I discovered about T.H. White and Mistress Masham’s Repose for a book review (coming up next!).

Writerly Tips: Finding a Creative Time and Place

While in the Literature & Writing Studies graduate program, one subject that kept coming up–especially in creative writing workshops–was the need to discover our own writing process.

There were a number of aspects to it, but the essential puzzle piece involved finding a time of day or place that helped us get our creative juices flowing.

Everyone has their own creative time and space.

For instance, one writer might find it easier to write in the late evening (maybe after a long day at work), with her or his feet up. Meanwhile, another writer could prefer to write in the early morning right before their day really starts, while standing up and leaning over a table.

I’ve heard of famous authors who preferred to write while doing such things as soaking in their bathtubs to laying in bed.

Whatever your writing process, it should feel natural and comfortable.

Sometimes we writers don’t have the luxury of choosing where or when we want to write; however, understanding our process can help us reach out for those elements that can make our lives a little easier.

I hope that helps!

Writer Journal–12March2018

Hi, everyone!

Have you ever had difficulty navigating around your WordPress site, arranging categories and your site’s pages?

I’ve grappled with several of those types of issues over the last few days, but now I think I’ve finally managed to figure out everything in that front.

In other words, I apologize if anyone has had trouble getting around my site due to issues with the menus!

Book Review: This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson

Rating: Highly Recommended

Pages: 282

Published by: HarperCollins Publishers

As I’m sure many people would agree, libraries provide havens of knowledge and offer invaluable services for any community lucky enough to have one. The San Marcos Public Library, for one example, provides any number of materials to check out—from books to DVDS—but also holds storybook hours, academic tutoring, and tax information workshops. In addition, libraries come in a wide variety of roles—including ones focused on university collections (like the Kellogg Library at Cal State San Marcos) or that hold genealogical records for their distinct regions (such as the Pioneer Room archives at the Escondido Public Library).

Considering their importance in relation to the knowledge they possess, and to the communities of people they serve, the issue of how libraries and their librarians handle emerging technologies is an important one.

The fact that the very heart of Marilyn Johnson’s This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All focuses on technological shifts in libraries thus turns her work into a timely read. Johnson—current editor of Esquire, among other notable publications— explores different facets and issues found in the library field as it presently stands, through an easy-to-digest essays.

Truly, one of the greatest strengths in This Book is Overdue is in its conversational prose style. Johnson discusses her forays into the library field like an enthusiastic explorer. It is easy to follow along in her interviews with the head of reference services at the Chappaqua Library in New York, or in her navigation of the blogs produced by an increasing number of librarians who wish to highlight their holdings or activities, or even her voyages into Second Life (an online platform getting used to create virtual libraries, develop digital collections, network, etc.).

Johnson develops the term “Cybrarians” as a new term attached to the many talents librarians must now have, indicating the importance technology now plays within their profession. In an age where so much information gets transmitted online, Johnson suggests, librarians or cybrarians are now learning to manage vast computer databases, digitize paper-based materials, and continue to improve accessibility for their patrons—all while dealing with dwindling funds allotted to them by legislators throughout the nation.

A crucial point that comes up again and again in This Book is Overdue concerns the tremendous financial struggles faced by libraries, which Johnson emphasizes need our support to remain up and running to the best of their abilities. These are places that go out of their way to help people, without asking for payment from the people who frequent them; a rare gem, indeed. Johnson highlights this need through her visits to various libraries, interviews, and attended ALA conferences.

The essays found in Johnson’s work also have a nice arrangement that guides the reader on towards more complicated issues. “Information Sickness,” one of the first essays in the collection, describes the gradual transition libraries have made in their use of technologies, and explores public opinion as to where libraries should stand in terms of the materials and technologies they should possess for patrons. Meanwhile, the midway “Big Brother and the Holdout Company” addresses the lesser-known tale of a group of librarians who sought to protect their patrons’ privacy despite a gag order due to the Patriot Act. Yet another essay, “What’s Worth Saving?”—found close to the end—ponders over the fine details of what materials and formats libraries might focus on preserving for future generations.

I would recommend This Book is Overdue for anyone interested in discovering what types of issues currently confront the library world, the types of innovative things librarians are up to in connection with emerging technologies, and simply ways in which our libraries need or could use the support of their home communities.