Can you believe that summer is here? 😮 It still feels like I was in Iceland last week. How on Earth has time zipped by so quickly??
Since a new season has begun, it’s time for an update on the past season’s creative happenings. And after a winter where I struggled with anxiety for a few weeks and my confidence in my writing hit rock-bottom, I’m happy to say that spring was a more productive, inspiring, and emotionally healthy season. It wasn’t free of bumps, but I’m moving forward and focused on new projects.
New projects?? What about The Keeper’s Curse? Or the novella? Yeah… I’ll explain what’s happening with them, too. But first…
The 2017 Iceland Writers Retreat
Two-and-a-half months have passed since IWR, and I’m still dazzled from it. Every expression of joy for being there doesn’t do the experience justice. IWR changed me as a person and as a writer, even if in subtle ways; and given how stressed out and anxious I was in the month leading up to the retreat, the timing couldn’t have been better. So if you’re reading this and you were one of the GoFundMe donors who helped me finance my trip… thank you so, so much. ❤
I’ve written three articles about my IWR experience since then. Each post was for a different publication and covered its own angle on the trip. If you missed them before, here’s your change to catch up:
- “#5onFri: Five Reasons to Attend the Iceland Writers Retreat” (DIY MFA)
- “How Waterfalls and the Iceland Writers Retreat Restored One Writer’s Faith in Her Craft” (Iceland Writers Retreat)
- “Using Real-World Locations to Ground Your Story’s Setting” (Writers Helping Writers)
What I’ve Been Writing
After coming home from Iceland, I was clear-headed enough to make a decision about The Keeper’s Curse. The reality is, Draft #4 will require a major rewrite to fix several plotting and worldbuilding issues… and I still don’t feel confident that I can do it without making the story or its world a bigger mess. Parts of it do work, and most of my beta-readers liked the story. But after realizing I’ve been blind to some significant problems for 4 years and three drafts, I’d rather take what I’ve learned from this experience and do my best to apply to a new story.
So, yes, TKC (as well as its prequel novella) is on hold. I’m not pitching it at Writer’s Digest Conference this summer (more on that shortly), and I’m not setting a timetable for returning to it. So what have I been working on all spring long? Let me break it down by project type:
The New WIP: I’m almost 20,000 words into Draft #1 of Storm, the story I mentioned during the previous Creativity Corner. It’s very different from TKC, from the type of fantasy (YA / New Adult magical realism instead of YA epic fantasy) to the protagonist’s personality and struggles. I’m also picturing a diverse cast of supporting characters, so part of my research will be talking to people and doing my due diligence to avoid writing an unintentionally insensitive story. It’s been intimidating, since I’m not always comfortable approaching people (even close friends) with such questions. But it’s more important for me to educate myself so that I can portray these characters (and the people they represent) with the accuracy and respect they deserve, and I know I’ll learn a great deal from the interviewees and from the process itself.
Until I finish said research on those characters, I’m working on other scenes or chapters that I’m more prepared to write. And so far, it’s been therapeutic to write. I could list the reasons why, but in short I feel more at home with this story (especially with the writing style, even though I’m trying not to place too much emphasis on it during Draft #1) than I did with TKC. But this draft is still in its infancy, and there’s a long way to go, so we’ll see what happens over the summer.
Research for Other Stories: Part of why I’d gone to the Iceland Writers Retreat was to visit the country that had inspired the northern latitudes for TKC’s story world. And though TKC is on hold now, I’m still enchanted with the idea of a fictional setting that’s similar to Iceland. So, on a casual basis, I’m dabbling in research on the island’s geography, geology, and climate. I’m not sure where this will lead, and I’ve yet to figure out the world’s fantastical elements. But with Storm as my priority, I’m in no hurry to make those decisions. All I know for certain is I’m already enjoying the research immensely. (Then again, why wouldn’t I enjoy reading about Iceland? *wink*)
Poetry: On top of all that, I’ve started writing poetry again. Somehow the faucet turned off when I started working on TKC 4 years ago. Now it’s back on, and no doubt it was influenced by my sharing one of my published poems during a “Music & Literature” class at the Iceland Writers Retreat, and also by my new poem-reading habit at bedtime. I’ve also picked several previously unpublished poems to edit and, along with the newer pieces, possibly send to journals for publication. This will take some time, but now that the tap is running again, it’s impossible to ignore it. As I often say, we’ll see what happens.
What I’ve Been Listening To While Writing
Like with my past stories, music has already become an integral part of the writing process for Storm. And if there’s truth to the saying “Variety is the spice of life,” then this is going to be one “flavorful” playlist. (*lol*) Here are some of the songs I’ve listened to so far during Draft #1:
- “Along the Shore” by David Arkenstone
- “Duette: Night Sounds with Native American Flute” and other tracks by Yoga Tribe and Jessita Reyes
- “The Lighthouse” by Ayreon featuring JB and Tommy Karevik (plays from 2:31 to 5:47 on the linked clip)
- “Springfield” by Anathema
- “Twisted Coil” by Guilt Machine
- “Windows” by Amanda Somerville
What I’ve Been Reading
I read 13 books over the spring, which brings my current 2017 total to 23. The big reading accomplishment of the season was finishing Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness Quartet, which follows a young girl masquerading as a boy in order to pursue knighthood and then her ensuing adventures as a young woman. It’s a fantasy classic that has influenced much of today’s YA fantasy market. So if you like the “girl-disguised-as-boy” trope, swordfights, magic, and a little romance, definitely check out this series, starting with Alanna: The First Adventure. (FYI: My favorite Song of the Lioness book is the finale, Lioness Rampant.)
As for my favorite reads of the spring, here are my top five, along with links to my Goodreads reviews:
- Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb: My first Robin Hobb novel, and boy did I need a hug when I finished it. This “coming-of-age” epic fantasy follows the young orphan Fitz as he discovers his royal parentage and is trained as a spy and assassin as well as with the telepathic Skill. It’s a more character-driven story than most fantasies I’ve read; and everyone is so layered and realistic that by the time I reached the final chapter, I was sad to leave them.
- A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, Book #3) by V.E. Schwab: A seriously epic finale to a seriously inventive and entertaining fantasy series. It’s chock-full of action, humor, magic, and blood; and while my favorite characters overall in the series are the “red traveler” Kell and cross-dressing pickpocket Lila, I was wickedly pleased with Prince Rhy’s growth and Holland’s development as a more sympathetic antagonist.
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: What might our world be like if 99% of our population died from an epidemic? This tour de force of post-apocalyptic literary fiction explores that very topic, while offering glimpses on fame, love, satisfaction with one’s life, and the awareness of building one’s legacy. It’s thought-provoking, elegantly written, and – because what happens in Station Eleven really could happen – terrifyingly believable.
- The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton: A whimsical, heartrending YA magical realism about three generations of Ava Lavender’s family, including Ava herself. It’s as much a tale of love, family, and heartache as it is about the mysterious and the inexplicable, and it reminded me of how much I love magical realism – and made me wonder why I don’t read that genre more often.
- Winter of the Gods by Jordanna Max Brodsky: NYC murder mystery meets modern-day incarnations of Greek mythology again in this sequel to last year’s The Immortals. Apart from some issues I had with the relationship between the two main characters, this was every bit as suspenseful, intelligent, and funny as its predecessor.
Looking for Book Recommendations
Speaking of books, would you be able to help me with some book recommendations? I have two types of stories I’m looking for. So I’ll share them below, along with links to my recommendation requests on Goodreads. If you have any suggestions, feel free to share them either in your comment to this post or by responding to either Goodreads request.
- Nature-Oriented Fantasy: In other words, fantasy novels with worldbuilding that involves or includes nature spirits, or where nature plays a big role in the story. Adult is preferred, but YA is welcome. Books in this vein that I’ve already read include Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Katharine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, and Sarah Beth Durst’s The Queen of Blood.
- First Year of College: I’m also looking for stories about a protagonist’s first year of college, especially the transitions and challenges he/she faces during that time. YA and New Adult novels are great; adult novels are welcome, too. I’m open to fantasy, magical realism, or literary / contemporary / regular fiction, and I’d prefer any New Adult suggestions to not be too racy. The only “fitting” book I’ve read so far is Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, but I’m planning to read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and Sara Zarr’s Roomies soon.
Last But Not Least: I’m Going Back to NYC in August – and Not Just for the Writer’s Digest Conference
As much as I’d wanted to go back to Writer’s Digest Conference this summer, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. But yes, I’m definitely going now, and WDC isn’t the only reason why.
Anathema, one of my favorite bands, is touring the US in August! They don’t play on this side of the Atlantic very often (they’re from the UK, and this will be their first US tour in 4 years, I think). So their tour schedule left me with a decision: Do I skip WDC to see Anathema play in Boston? Or, do I go to NYC and not only attend WDC, but Anathema’s show at Gramercy Theater the night before WDC begins?
Let’s just say the decision was a no-brainer. 😉
How are your writing projects going? What books have you read lately? Got any trips (writing-related or just for fun) or concerts planned for the summer? Share what you’ve been up to in your comments. And if you have any books to recommend for either request, I’d greatly appreciate it!