New DIY MFA Article on Man and the Natural World, Plus Other Updates


(NOTE: Due to this week’s DIY MFA post, the weekly blog post will go live on Thursday, January 26th.)

Nature can play a pivotal role in a story, from thrusting obstacles into the protagonist’s path to dazzling with its majesty beauty. This complicated relationship between the natural world and mankind can lead to incredible stories in real life as well as in literature. So, in today’s edition of Theme: A Story’s Soul at DIY MFA, I explore how this idea is conveyed as a theme in Rae Carson’s Walk On Earth a Stranger and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. It turns out that wagon train journeys and survival on the high seas have more in common than we might think.

Click here to read “Man and the Natural World: A Case Study on Literary Themes.”


In both photos, Wesley is the brown-and-white owl, and Hedwig is the grey one.

#WIPjoy and “Owl-y” Happenings on Twitter

I’m participating in #WIPjoy again on Twitter! This is a month-long hashtag event where writers answer questions and share their love for their work-in-progress (WIP). I did it last June for my novel The Keeper’s Curse, and this month I’m covering my new WIP, which is tentatively titled The Novella. Here’s one of the most recent Tweets, if you’re curious:

Speaking of Twitter, you can also catch new “episodes” of #WesleyWednesday every Wednesday at 9:15 AM Eastern. Every week I share a cute or silly photo featuring Wesley, an owl figurine that sits on my writing “desk.” And if you noticed the two photos above, Wesley isn’t the only owl in the house anymore. Say “hello” to Hedwig! 😉

11 Days Remaining for the GoFundMe Campaign for the 2017 Iceland Writers Retreat

As of posting time, the campaign for my trip to the 2017 Iceland Writers Retreat has reached $1930 US. This is more than half of the retreat’s costs – and that’s a HUGE help. I’m so grateful not only for the donations, but for the link-sharing and the encouragement / enthusiasm / positive vibes about this trip. So, thank you many, many times over. ❤

The deadline for donations is Saturday, February 4th; and plenty of perks are still available if you’d like to contribute. Some are running low (one Scarf perk, and two U.S. Tea Lovers). But there are quite a few first chapter critiques, International Tea Lovers, and other perk levels left. Until then, click here to visit the GoFundMe campaign page.

Are you participating in #WIPjoy? How is your WIP coming along? Read any good books lately? Also, have you read any stories where the theme of “man and the natural world” comes into play?

23 thoughts on “New DIY MFA Article on Man and the Natural World, Plus Other Updates

  1. #WIPjoy! I completely forgot it was this month; being swamped in my novel’s revisions I have not been aware of the social media world lately, haha.
    Oh, and guess what? I started The Vanishing Throne! And ohmygoodness, those first couple of chapters are INTENSE! I am loving it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have full intentions on making some of those WIPjoy and authorconfession tags into blog posts… and yes, it’s already the 26th of the month.

    I can’t think of anything I’ve read recently, but as far as man v. nature, The Perfect Storm comes to mind. What a powerful story. Oftentimes, we get so caught up in personal/man v. man conflicts in storywriting, and how nature affects the story tends to come off as contrived/cliched or as an afterthought. Your article is a very good reminder to keep all our senses open and really “live” the story.

    I just finished Grace of Kings by Ken Liu, and wow. It’s the epic novels of epic Chinese films! The story was very intricate and it was very enjoyable. Characters were a little hard to relate with, but I’m pretty familiar with Chinese films and storytelling, so in that sense, the story was great. Now I’m starting Clockwork Angel. It kind of reminds me of Carriger’s Soulless (MC with unique supernatural power saves new friends) …but not as good. But eh, that’s just me! I’m halfway through it, and I will persevere!

    How is your current read?

    Liked by 1 person

    • *lol* I actually think I’m going to share and elaborate on some of my #WIPjoy tweets in the Chronicling The Craft progress reports, since I still have no idea what else to do as “fun stuff” yet. And I do need to start thinking about it, since I’m already less than 3,000 words away from 10K on The Novella. 😮

      I’ve never read The Perfect Storm, but I did see the movie several years ago. And I agree, it’s a powerful story and a great example of “man versus nature.”

      “Oftentimes, we get so caught up in personal/man v. man conflicts in storywriting, and how nature affects the story tends to come off as contrived/cliched or as an afterthought. Your article is a very good reminder to keep all our senses open and really “live” the story.”

      Exactly! That was one of the things I tried to keep in mind with TKC, actually. Since it’s a quest story, why not include some natural obstacles along the way? Like a rainstorm, or carnivorous animals? 😮 😉 But yeah, man-and-nature conflicts are often overlooked, and when such stories come along, they remind us that the environment can sometimes be as much of an adversary as other characters.

      Oooh, glad to hear that about Grace of Kings! I’ve seen a couple Chinese films, too, so I think I know what you meant by part of your comment. But I’ll definitely try to check that out at some point.

      I’m currently reading Ever The Hunted by Erin Summerill, which is a relatively new YA fantasy. (I’m planning to do a lot of catch-up on recent YA fantasies this year via library rentals, to help with finding recent books / authors to use as comp titles for TKC when the time comes.) It’s OK so far. Summerill has a nice writing style, but the characters (including the MC) aren’t all that engaging. I also finished Garth Nix’s Lirael recently, and while I still prefer his first book Sabriel, it was wonderful to learn more about the Old Kingdom and its magic / necromancy system, and I enjoyed seeing Lirael start to grow into who she’s meant to be.


  3. I am following the #WIPJoy on Twitter – the one you’ve mentioned has made me very curious indeed. 😉 I’m reading this series called Otherselves by Nicole Luiken – loved the first book and now reading the second. It has the “man and nature” theme all over it, and we probably have a lot to learn from it. It’s a good series with some really cool world-building, if you want to check it out. So far, at least.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I might share some of my #WIPjoy tweets in the upcoming Chronicle progress reports. I haven’t figured out what else to do for “fun stuff” yet, but it seems like a good option. And the embedded tweet made you curious? (*evil author laughter*)

      Never heard of the Otherselves series before. It sounds like it’s fantasy…? What is the first book about?

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is fantasy. There are 5 worlds – True, Fire, Air, Water (our earth) and Stone, which are replicas of each other in the sense that people can have “Otherselves” in each. Very few have one in all the worlds. The protagonist, Leah from the Fire world, is one of them. One can contact the Otherselves in the other worlds by calling them and looking into a mirror. Leah, the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman, is given to a sorceress as the payment for a favour, under whose tutelage she learns to contact her Otherselves. But her father has also asked her to spy on the sorceress and she stumbles on her best-kept secret. But, as in most stories, the motives of the people around her are unknown and she gets more than she bargained for.
        I loved the world-building, the twists and the fast-paced narration. I haven’t read anything quite like it, but maybe I’m just unaware of similar books. I’m started the second one this morning and have been so caught up that I’m halfway through it already. I don’t know how confusing my summary is, so do check it out on Goodreads for a better blurb. 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I keep falling behind on your posts, Sara. I’m so sorry for that 😦
    This looks like a fascinating article and I’m going to go check it out straight away! My sister and I have been enamoured lately with Thoreau and Walden and nature in general ❤
    Best of luck reaching your goal with the Retreat, my dear!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Catching up on posts (again).
    I hope your campaign went well (which I probably will learn in a while as I continue reading) and you’re looking forward to your very special vacation time :).
    I don’t participate in WIPJoy – I’ve seen it around, but usually I learn about it too late to plan it or even wrap my head around it, and I don’t feel like adding extra stress of rushing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I saw your comment on the crowdfunding post, so I’ll check that out shortly. 😉

      #WIPjoy was fun, but in hindsight doing it in January wasn’t a great idea. Between starting a new writing project, promoting the crowdfunding campaign, and then with the work-related stress I dealt with later in January, I couldn’t keep up with my Twitter friends’s posts. :/ Which made me thankful that I pre-scheduled mine.

      Liked by 1 person

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