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The Book Club Swaps: Nicole and Addey

I can’t even remember how I stumbled upon the book Red Queen, probably in a bookstore while I roaming around the young adult section. Usually, titles and covers that speak to me, or interest me, are the ones I pick up to read the inside cover summary. What probably got me to buy this book and to take it home was the dangerous chess game, with elements of fantasy, betrayal, power plays, and beating the impossible. I have read up to the third book in the series, and I find Victoria Aveyard’s writing fresh and intriguing. The way she plots her books is very interesting, and she keeps everything exciting yet familiar to the reader.

I selected this book for Addey to dabble in the world of young adultness because it has an element of refinement that I very much see in Addey. I like to think books fit certain personalities and interests of people, so I carefully chose this one. Not only that, but this book holds a lot to traditions and history of the land and the way of the people, which Addey reads historical fiction and literary stories, so I thought it would fit in her wheelhouse of being comfortable to at least try and read this book. I am interested and excited to read and see what Addey has thought of this book!

Now that Addey’s finished reading the book, here are her thoughts…

I definitely think Nicole was right in thinking that I would like this book! It was intriguing to me almost from page one, and got even more interesting the more I learned about the world that Red Queen takes place in. It does have some elements of the historical fiction that I usually read. The world has many traditions and characteristics that harken back to earlier times but also mixed with technology and modern tendencies. It was an interesting combination, but one that I think worked!

I also liked the plot of the book–it was unexpected and kept me guessing. I also appreciated that there was romance involved, but it wasn’t too hot and heavy (something that I wish more books adhered to.) The characters were believable but also easy to root for (or hate.)

I do think that there were times the dialogue felt a little bit unnatural and the description of characters’ actions didn’t always flow or make sense, but it was minimal enough that I didn’t really care! I am planning to read the next books in the series, for sure, so I am excited to see if that improves as the books go on and the characters become more fleshed out.

Overall I really liked Red Queen! Nicole did a good job choosing this book for me to read in our book swapping series, and I would definitely recommend the book to all of our readers out there.

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Stay tuned for more from the book club as we all read books picked for each other and write our reviews here.  And if you want to join the club and recommend books for us to read, or take a stab at our recommendations, leave your comments and suggestions below!

Where’s the Magic?

There are two weeks left to submit to the fall journal!

We have been excited reading the submitted stories and poems.

We want to say more about what we want. For nonfiction, have you had a dream or nightmare that didn’t make sense but mystified you? I want to read that! Or what about a break in the pattern of your normal life, what was different, and how did it affect you? What is the magic going around you and your life, is pointing to the sky and telling what a cloud shape looks like to you? Or one moment in your life—not COIVD-19—that turned your world upside down? Were you saved by a bit of magic that mystified you? Like, for me, I was caught in a muddy landslide, but I magically made it to the bottom without a scratch and it was a cliff that nature shifted when I was just 16 years old. During that slide, I also saved my little cousin and my dog from sliding down with me and threw them up on a ledge before I went down.

I want to see what made you change religions, stop believing, or started to believe. Religion doesn’t just mean believing in a “god”, it is also a set of rules to live your life and abide too. What is mystical about you?

For fiction, Amber is pretty open to all. She wants you to mystify her. Whether it be mystery, suspense, the paranormal, the horror, magical myths you created, show her—ahem—I mean telling her by showing her in your writing what kind of magic imagination is!

For poetry, Addey wants to see the mundane written about in a mystical way. She wants to see captivating stories told in as few words as possible and read poems that explore what haunts the speaker. She wants to see life summarized on the page the mystical way that only writers can do it!

So there’s a little bit more about what we are looking for. We can’t wait to read what you submit.

Happy Submitting!!

P.S. Submissions close July 31st, as a reminder. 

Writing Your Way Out of a Slump

Have you ever run into a writing wall?  Have you felt inspired and written non-stop for months on end only to burn out?  I know I have, and it’s hard!  I find that writing tends to come in waves for me.  I shuffle between times where I can’t turn off the faucet of writing ideas in my brain and times where I’m in a creative drought.  It’s especially hard to keep going when I’m in one of those times of writing struggle periods—writing is the thing I love to do and the thing that inspires me, but when I’m searching for inspiration and coming up empty-handed, it’s really hard to keep going!

So if you are like me and cycle in and out of writing periods in your life, and could use some inspiration, here are some ideas to get your creative gears turning again:

1. Write in a different genre than you usually do.

Writing in a different genre for fiction writers can be an amazing tool to get you excited about writing again.  Every writing genre has its own quirks and stereotypes.  Maybe lean into those as you go along—write a romance that follows all the tropes.  Come up with the best meet-cute story you can think of and write an outlandishly by the book romance worthy of Harlequin.  While you may not end up finishing the story or writing anything actually worthy of publication, it can get you excited about writing your usual genre again and give inspiration.

2. Write in a completely different format than you usually do.

Try writing a journalistic piece, or some experimental poetry.  Write about real life rather than the fantasy world you usually write in.  Try a more formulaic concept like writing a villanelle or even a simple haiku.

3. Try journaling.

I’ve mentioned this before, but journaling is the only form of writing that I consistently do—it usually doesn’t end up in a creative landslide of ideas for me, but it can definitely help with weeding through the overgrowth that clogs my brain and stops me from wanting to write.  I find that even stream-of-consciousness journaling can lead to some unexpected places and new writing ideas!

4. Keep a list of things you want to write about in the droughts and the downpours.

This is my most useful tip—any time you have an idea or a thought that inspires you to write, take a few minutes to actually write them down!  This is the same concept as a writer’s notebook that you keep stashed in your back pocket wherever you go, but for me, it’s a Google doc (many pages long) that has ideas for articles, poems, or stories.  Keep a list so that when you get stuck and don’t know where to go next, you have a roadmap, of sorts, to get you back on track with writing something.

5. Take your inspiration from pop culture.

One of the easiest ways to get writing inspiration that can help write you out of a funk is to take it from elsewhere!  One of my favorite things to do is to take the headlines from a newspaper or the titles of the shows in your Netflix queue/Spotify playlist and use them to write something new.  Take the first three titles you see and roll with it.  Or take the longest headline you can find and create a story using every word in it.  Make a game for yourself to get going, and pretty soon you’ll be back to writing non-stop.

I hope this list helps you if you are going through a writing drought.  Remember that it’s okay and normal to have periods of no writing, but that you don’t have to stay there forever.  Write yourself out of that slump and get back to doing what you were meant to do.

All About Masterclass: Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing

Nicole and I have been trying out Masterclass lately. It was definitely Nicole’s idea, and she’s the one who set everything up, but we’ve both been enjoying learning about writing from a variety of different people. The first Masterclass that we tackled was from Margaret Atwood and was all about–you guessed it–creative writing.

Today we are going to share our thoughts on the Masterclass so that you can hear a bit about what Atwood teaches in case you are interested in Masterclass. Or if you are interested in learning more about creative writing, like we always are!

Nicole’s Thoughts:

Atwood had an interesting perspective on short stories and how to start them. She doesn’t think about structure until she was about ¼ into her stories. She writes out her skeleton and then she goes back to add information to support the story structure. You put up the frame of the house and then go back to pick out the siding, color of the shingles, the size of windows and curtains, etc. Because to her, the story is what happens and that is the plot and structure is how you tell the story.

Atwood also talked about starting the story right there in the middle of the action. What is breaking the main character’s pattern? Pick one event that makes the main character’s life no longer perfect and that is the place you start. For then onwards, every action the mc does, reveals the character and everything the mc does, should build their character. They are there to interact with the events of the story, if you have a character that does not serve that purpose, consider getting rid of him or her, or maybe merge with another one. Characters should all serve a purpose, and their purpose in the story should not be wasted. 

Addey’s Thoughts:

I definitely think that Atwood had some unique and clever ways of looking at writing. She is, of course, an amazing and successful writer, and I don’t think writers can every go wrong listening to those who have made a career out of writing.

The first thing that stuck out to me when watching her Masterclass is something that Nicole also mentioned–a story needs a break in a pattern to get it going. In order to write something good and unique, you need to start from somewhere slightly off-kilter and different than the typical “pattern.”

Atwood also started out with the idea of never starting with an idea. This is an interesting concept to me because it seems to be the exact opposite of what I’ve always thought to be true. She encourages immersing yourself in writing and getting something on the page. Atwood says that is where your story/idea comes from.

So those are few things that stood out to Nicole and me in Margaret Atwood’s Masterclass. There are countless other tidbits of useful information for writers that Atwood weaves into each short lesson. We’re definitely still new to exploring Masterclass, but we’ll take you along with us and let you know what we find out!

Season Two Update

That’s a wrap on season two of borrowed solace: the podcast! We’re so grateful to everyone who has taken the time out of their day to listen and participate in the discussion. We plan on coming back for season three in the fall, so keep your eyes (and ears!) peeled for updates on the next season!

Submitting is Courageous

Everyone who is a writer knows that getting up the courage to actually submit your writing out into the world takes courage. It’s scary to think about putting your words out into the world. We all (at least, every writer I’ve ever talked to) think of their work as their baby. We spend a lot of time nurturing an idea and making sure the words come out just right, so then releasing it out into the world can be scary. And when you’re submitting your work to an unknown panel of “judges,” like us editors, it can be even scarier.

I’ve been on the other side of the computer–I’ve had to get up the courage to submit my stories and poems to a literary journal or magazine, more often than not, only to be rejected. But I want to encourage you to not give up! Take that courageous step and submit. We are so excited to read what you have written. Even if it’s a “no,” for borrowed solace, that doesn’t mean that it’s a “no” from somewhere else. You are courageous just for taking the time to write and put your words forth into the world.

So if you are still debating whether or not you want to submit, please do. We are still open for mystical submissions and would love to see your work. Please, take that courageous first step and submit!

We can’t wait to see what you have written!

S2 Episode 10: Resources

In season two episode ten of borrowed solace: the podcast, Addey chatted with Madison Farren about writing and self-publishing her debut children’s book, My Daddy is a Hipster!

If you would like to purchase a copy of My Daddy is a Hipster, with illustrations by Ivanna Nashkolna, you can visit Madison’s website, MadisonFarrenWrites.com.

You can also follow Madison on Instagram @madisonfarrenwrites and Ivanna @deseo.art.

Per the usual routine, we would love to hear your thoughts on the episode in the comments below! Imagine we are at the park on a breezy summer evening and chatting about self-publishing and children’s book. What parts of the episode surprised you? What was interesting? What questions do you still have? Let us know!

S2 Episode 10: Self-Publishing and Children’s Books

In this week’s podcast episode, Addey is joined by an old friend, Madison Farren, to talk about what it was like self-publishing her debut children’s book, My Daddy is a Hipster. Tune in to hear all the ins and outs of the process!

Ship of the Sky

This week on the blog we are bringing back the exquisite corpse! A little morbid sounding, this is just a writing exercise where you work collaboratively with another person (or more than one person) to add bits and pieces of language together to make a complete poem (or story, or song, or whatever you’d like!) This week, I was joined by Addey to create a poem over text message. So here it is:

Ship of the Sky

By Nicole McConnell and Addey Vaters

The raindrops fall like heavy boulders onto my shoulders.

No matter how hard I tried to harden myself, they soaked me, not rolling off or crumbling.

All the while I stood still in this eye of the storm you created, not moving, not waiving…

Instead waiting for an outcome I knew wasn’t coming.

But I wasn’t alone, the ocean surrounded me.

The crashing waves matched the crushing doubt consuming my soul,

And from that a ship rose out of the water next to me, the moon its sails, the muted sun its hull, the stars it’s deck

It sprung to life out of the nothingness of the sea as if beckoning me aboard…

A string of stars pulled me up onto the deck,

And the churning wind blew into the sails, propelling me into destiny.