Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Random Complexity Writing Challenge (May)

I made it! Thanks to Laurie Halse Anderson's prompt, I found myself writing a page and a half about a robin egg in a garden. That was 1009 words. Not to mention my other writings of the month--by now, you know I don't keep track of all the word counts.

And because I've never shared, I'll share one paragraph of what I wrote based on that prompt:

L. doubted that even a soul looked as beautiful as that bright blue egg almost crushed by her knee. She took off her glove and picked it up. A piece was missing out of the other side; a little beak peeked through. L. held it egg carefully in her palm, exposing the hole to the sun, willing the beak to keep forcing its way through. With her nail, she picked another little piece off. And another. And another, till she had the dead baby bird half exposed. It could have been out here for days; she wouldn’t have noticed it. But no, the ants would have dismantled it by now, used it to feed their gigantic family.

I feel a little self-conscious about sharing any more; it's been ages since I've even contributed to 100 Words.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

When Women Were Warriors: The Warrior's Path by Catherine M. Wilson

When Catherine Wilson queried me about writing a book review for the first book in her When Women Were Warriors trilogy, I naturally went to check out her site. And I almost said no because in my experience, self-published fiction tends to be the result of delusions of grandeur. But after I read the excerpt on her site, I decided to give it a try.

I'm glad I did. Wilson's book was intended to be the first part of an epic book, but when she decided to self-publish, she decided (considering advice from an editor and friends) to publish it as a trilogy instead. The Warrior's Path follows a young woman who's desire is to become a warrior, like her mother before her. In order to do this, she must find a warrior in the Lady's service who will apprentice her, but she's a small woman, a trait not treasured in the warrior mind. The Lady assigns her as a companion to a warrior who is a stranger to the realm and is tasked with learning more about her.

I like Wilson's style, despite a little repetitiveness. Story-telling plays a pretty major role in the story, and I'm certain that this probably remains the case throughout the rest of the trilogy, which appeals me. You know how much I like story-telling in books. I love that all the stories, instead of "Once upon a time," start, "In ancient days, when only women were warriors..."

The setting is well-developed, but the characters fell short of my expectations. I would have liked more conflict, internal and external; even at the end of book one, I don't have a deep sense of most of the characters. And the lack of men in the story (the few in the book are peripheral characters) threw a balance off; I'm curious as to whether this will be remedied in the next two installments.

If Wilson had published her story as one long book, I would certainly have kept reading; I'm not sure, though, whether I will go about the process of getting the next two books (as I already have 30 books to read before the summer's out--and that's just by the end of summer). Though I mostly enjoyed this first in the trilogy, I'm afraid many of her readers will feel the same: I really wish this had been one book.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Unforgettable: Aurian by Maggie Furey

I picked Aurian up at a garage sale when I was in college. I figured it looked like a great summer read--and I'm glad to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've re-read it several times since, and even when you know exactly what's going to happen, it's still a wonderful story.

And you'll be familiar with the basic plot--girl discovers that she has wondrous powers and abilities (not a surprise, since both her parents are mages), is trained in physical combat (because a girl can't rely on magic to get her out of every scrape), and of course get wrapped up in a twisted kind of love/lust triangle. And amongst the hierarchy and class struggles between the mages and the non-magical people (who I really want to call muggles), Aurian saves the city and then has to flee because she upset the grand plan of the head mage--and all that in the first third of the book.

When I finished Aurian the first time, I was completely dismayed to find I'd hooked myself on yet another trilogy. So I ordered the next two books (and found that there was actually a fourth book about to be released).

Unfortunately, I found the rest of the books to be less enjoyable. It felt like it should've been a whole saga, but instead it was forced into four books. (The last one, especially, the story felt crammed between the covers.)

Still, I find myself wanting to reread Aurian, even knowing that the books to follow can't live up to what I want them to be. And maybe next time I'll just be able to call it quits after reading just the first book in the trilogy+1.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Surrey International Writers Conference Young Writer Scholarship

This is for all teen writers--

The Surrey International Writing Conference is an international phenomenon that draws all levels and ages of writers to Vancouver, BC. Editor Lisa Rector has graciously sponsored a full scholarship for a teen writer to attend. Here are the details Lisa sent me; eventually, this will be posted on the SIWC site, too.

The 2nd Annual Lisa Rector Young Writers Scholarship

Postmark Deadline: July 30, 2009.

1st place, SIWC Full Scholarship,2009.
2nd place, critique by a Literary Agent
3rd place, critique by an Editor or Writer

The winner will be invited to attend the Surrey International Writers’ Conference October 23-25, 2009 in Surrey, Canada. 3-day conference pass includes entry to an awards banquet announcing the winner and a consult with a participating a

gent or editor attending this year’s conference. Scholarship does not includemeals, travel or accommodation.

Students between the ages of 12-18, currently enrolled in a junior high, senior high or college program, are eligible to enter. Contest is open to Canadian, US and Worldwide residents.

Submission guidelines

Please include:

1. An original, unpublished work of less than 1000 words, typed and double-spaced in 12-point Courier or Times New Roman font. Each page of the work should be titled but should not contain any information about the author. Work that previously appeared in school publications is eligible.

2. A cover letter with the author’s contact information, the title of their submission and a paragraph outlining the student's goals as a writer.

3. A letter of recommendation from an instructor in the current or previous academic year.

Submit entries to the following address:

Lisa Rector

c/o Young Writers Scholarship
95 Horatio Street., Suite 9M
New York, NY 10014 USA.

MS Word attachments are also accepted via email to: Emailed submissions must adhere to the above rules and must be received by midnight on the postmarked deadline of July 30, 2009 in order to qualify. A confirmation email will be sent to the applicant once their submission has been received.

Entries may be made in any of the following genres: fiction, poetry, personal essay or memoir. One entry per applicant.

Important dates

Application Deadline: July 30, 2009
Finalists Announced September 5, 2009
Scholarship Awarded October 23-25, 2009

Finalists are responsible for their own meals, accommodation and travel to and from the conference.

For further information, please contact Lisa Rector at


Adults intereseted in similar contests can find last year's guidelines on the SIWC contest page; this year's should be posted relatively soon (I think.)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane approaches a familiar period in history--the Salem witch trials--with a different slant: What if there really were witches in Salem?

Howe has clearly done a lot of research to write this book, and the way it's presented (through the perspective of a history grad student about to embark on her dissertation) may grate on the nerves of some readers, but for this reader (who's been missing grad school), it's geekishly satisfying.

Unfortunately, the story affords no surprises. Everything is heavily foreshadowed, the characters are all stock and the writing occasionally feels a little graceless; some scenes are filler, unoriginal or poorly executed (especially compared to the writing Howe proves elsewhere in the story she is capable of offering).

I do appreciate the ease with which Howe's story flows between the historical periods and the modern (1991) setting. And did I mention that I really admire not only the amount of research Howe must have done, but also that a research process is incorporated into the story? (I am such a geek.)

Bottom line: I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I'd anticipated.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane will be available June 2009.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Complexity of Night Writing Challenge Update (April)

Okay. So I confess--I have no idea how much I wrote last month, because it was all so fragmented, but I seriously doubt that those fragments come anywhere near the 1000 word goal. I am disgusted that I somehow failed to write 1000 words. I mean, yes, we were house-sitting and pet-sitting. Yes, there was some tax drama (which turned out to be completely unnecessary). But I'm still looking for all my April writing files, hoping that maybe I did actually make the goal. You know, I just save everything to the documents file, so I can't just open the April file in Documents and check word counts. I'll keep looking. But I'm pretty sure I didn't make it.