Mini Review: Treasure Island

In January I swore to read five books this year no matter what, and despite having read 57 books this year I somehow only managed to read four of the ones on the list…but I consider it a minor miracle I made it through Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, which was No. 2 on the list. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s a real page-turner if you aren’t listening to the $2 audiobook version. Then it’s more like a sleep-inducer, leaving you constantly wondering, “oh, is another person speaking now, I didn’t notice because all the voices are identical” and “that’s the worst parrot impression I have ever heard.”

I tried not to let it impact my overall impression of the book, but that’s a hard thing to ask. That said, the book is foundational to all pirate adventure narratives today, and looking back with some distance from the narration I did enjoy it. Perhaps my favorite moment overall was when Jim’s mother wouldn’t hurry up and leave the inn because she was too honest to take more money than she was actually owed, so she took her sweet time counting out ancient coinage as pirates actively laid siege to their home.

I thought the point of view was much too distant and that it was kind of absurd that so many random people would just declare that Jim was living with them, or sailing to find treasure, and so on, without asking either Jim or his mother. Both of those things are products of the time it was written, which was in 1882. (Ultimately, I really only wanted to read the book so I could re-watch Treasure Planet cognizant of its narrative background.)

Overall thoughts: good book, but either read it or pay $25 for a quality audiobook

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Writing Prompts Galore

Happy Christmas Eve for those who celebrate it, and apologies for the erratic update schedule lately–I’ve been in transit from North Carolina to Tennessee to Ohio and soon to reverse that process, and that kind of driving takes a lot out of you. Now I’m at my grandparents’ house for seasonal festivities, trying to squeeze in some thesis work while catching up with family and also becoming addicted to The Arcana game…oops.

Anyway it’s about time that I compile another author resource list! This time, prompts. It can be hard to write over the holidays when everything is crazy and you can’t seem to focus over the confusion of relatives you haven’t seen in a few months/years all trying to figure out how to act now they’re together again. Prompts cut through the BS of agonizing over what to write and get down to business. Here are some of my favorite prompt sites, and also ones that seem useful but I just haven’t used yet.

Deep Water Prompts always has unusual and thought-provoking prompts. This site has been my go-to for the last few months when I need to find a good prompt.

Writing Prompts generally has very quality, sometimes humorous options and updates regularly.

The Colormayfade generator has very specific prompts, down to randomized genres, settings, and themes.

Writing Exercises has a list of places to find different prompts, such as image, first line, and quick plot generators. Go crazy.

Awesome Writing Prompts doesn’t update anymore but the backlogs seem to have some interesting prompts.

The word “prompt” no longer sounds or looks real to me, so I guess that’s enough! Happy holidays and happy writing!

YALLFest Notes: Wrap-Up

This is my last of three posts reflecting on what I learned at YALLFest a few weeks ago. I’m sure I could go on for the foreseeable future, but I’m going to stop at three. I’m not focusing on one or two authors here, but overall takeaways from the weekend.

  1. YALLFest was a really radical place to be. I somehow managed to forget that last year, YALLFest proved to be a verbally acknowledged space for mourning and hope post-election. This year, every panel was on top of social issues, every author that spoke talked about changing the world through literature, and Libba Bray kicked off the end party by singing “Born this Way” with a rainbow flag cape. That pervasive sense of hope and, yes, activism and revolution through YA, was tangible and amazing. It made me think, yes, this is where I need to be, what I need to strive for.
  2.  Strong characters make strong stories, and weak characters break stories.
  3. From Soman Chainani: You have to be in love with your story. IN LOVE. That will hold it together when things get messy. Write with love and the honesty of your on experience of being.
  4. From Patrick Ness: Write the books you should have had. Write the books that you needed.
  5. From Cassandra Clare: extreme pain in a book can clear the way for great happiness.
  6. I can’t wait for YALLFest 2018.

⚔ Victories ⚔

I’m taking a brief break from my YALLFest reflections to report on two recent triumphs: finishing my NaNoWriMo novella and getting a piece published! (Also, apologies for the missed post last Saturday. Was traveling, eating, and binge-playing Pocket Camp.)

My goal for National Novel Writing Month was not, in fact, to write a novel, but a novella. 50,000 words just isn’t feasible with six classes and a thesis, but 500 words a day is. I overshot my goal by about 5,000 words but did manage to wrap the story up by November 30–huzzah! Its narrative quality is not overwhelming, but it’s something to work with.

Some surprises I encountered while writing:

  • I do not know my protag’s backstory past 4 years before the story happens…oops
  • I pulled a deus ex machina at the end by turning a character into an exiled demon prince (It’s not as middle-school-fantasy as it sounds though, because it’s a giant lizard)
  • My protag’s love interest is more bloodthirsty than anticipated
  • And the god is more bashful
  • Aforementioned god still, 20,000 words later, has no name (have been calling him ‘O’ in desperation)
  • It was heck of a lot of fun to write, and 500 words a day is so doable I’m going to keep doing it

Secondly, I’ve been published again!!! It’s my second piece to be published in my university’s literary magazine, a flash fiction piece like the first one. It’s called Descent, and details the strange descent of a submarine crew. I was honored to be asked to read it at the release party last night, and it was a blast, even though I messed up a couple of times.

All of these writing-related victories have left me despondent in the face of exam week, in which I must put aside major creative projects in favor of endless academic writing–which I still enjoy, but not when nine hundred essays are due in the same week.

submarine edit

Pictured above: either the crew of Descent navigating the deep sea or myself navigating through finals week. Both options equally perilous.