Book Fairy for a Day

 

18 September was International Hide a Book Day, giving book lovers around the world the opportunity to unselfishly spread the joy of reading by hiding a book in a public spot. Naturally, I didn’t miss the opportunity to don my fairy wings for 24 hours.

I do believe in book fairies. I DO believe in book fairies, I DO!

Having trouble believing Book Fairies exist? Consider this:

  • A logo is sure proof of existence, right?
  • These Book Fairies are tech-savvy: they have a website. If you don’t believe me, click this link> I Believe in Book Fairies. Think about it: How could something unreal have a website with an About page, FAQs, and merch, for goodness sake?
  • And they have regional Facebook pages, like this one in Australia.
  • And if nothing else convinces you that Book Fairies are real, consider this indisputable fact: The Chief Fairy is a lady named Cordelia, which is the most fairy-like name imaginable. Cordelia.

Book Fairies are real—real people who share their love of reading by hiding books in public places for people to find, enjoy, and re-hide. No wings are necessary—just a willingness to part with a favourite book.

Spreading Reading Rainbows Everywhere

The Book Fairies helped Goodreads celebrate their tenth birthday this year. All around the world, bewinged book worms carefully selected and prepared a book to launch into the wilderness on Hide a Book Day. The Book Fairies HQ provided stickers so that when the unsuspecting citizen finds the book, they understand that they are meant to take it home, read it, and then pass it on.

My First Book Fairy Release

After scouring my shelves, I selected  The Ratcatcher’s Daughter  by Pamela Rushby. I thought it would be fitting to pick an Aussie author and a book with local interest. The Ratcatcher’s Daughter is middle-grade historical fiction set in 1900 when the Black Death first came to Queensland. There were subsequent outbreaks of the bubonic plague for the next nine years and then again in 1921 and 1922.

Rushby relates the history through the story of fictional 13-year-old Issie McKelvie, whose dad is the local ratcatcher. She loathes rats and her dad’s pack of yappy dogs. But when dad gets sick, Issie has to step in and do the dirty work to save Brisbane from the vermin that are spreading disease and death.

The Ratcatcher’s Daughter received several awards, including the CBCA Notable Book 2015,  Highly Commended in the Davitt Awards 2015, and being shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards 2014. Pam has published a slew of educational books and commercial fiction. She lives in Queensland and says she gets her best story ideas while swimming laps.

Although it was hard to part with my copy of the book, I was keen for others to read this fascinating slice of Queensland history. I penned a personal note to the finder, tucked it inside, and left the book among the magazines and lifestyle books in a beautiful tea house on the Sunshine Coast. Giving away my book made me happy!

Fairying All Year Long

You don’t have to wait until the next Hide a Book Day to join the book sharing revolution. Join the ranks of fairies, which includes Emma Watson. Visit The Book Fairies’ website, buy some stickers, and start sharing!

Would you consider being a Book Fairy for a day? I’d love to know which book you think is worth sharing, so leave a comment!

#HideABookDay #GoodreadsTurns10 #ibelieveinbookfairies #AustralianBookFairies

Book Review: The Girl Who Drank The Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill is one of the freshest stories I’ve read in years. If you love fairy tales, strong storytelling, lyrical writing and a bit of quirkiness, this is the book for you.

My top ten reasons to love The Girl Who Drank the Moon:

1. Wonderfully weird  –  It is a quirky blend of dark fantasy and humour, a super cool blend of ~Oooh~ and HA! It’s a story that tugs your heart-strings and tickles your sides. The lyrical prose soothes while the stark truths stab you in the heart. It’s disturbing, entertaining, heartwarming, intriguing, satisfying … and plain old good.

2. Adorable characters:

  • My Luna – A Mini Foxie x Jack Russell Terrier.

    Luna – How can you not feel for this kid? She’s literally out of control, but she’s so lovable and feisty and unique. Nevertheless, steps must be taken to contain the child, and the effects are drastic and rather sad. It’s reminiscent of  how kids today are medicated with psychotropic drugs like Ritalin. I know (professionally) such medications can be helpful and are (sometimes) necessary, but what’s lost? Are those losses quantifiable? Are they retrievable? Laying aside the big philosophical and ethical issues of sedating children, the real reason I was attracted to this book was the protagonist’s name. Luna! It’s such a pretty name. (Luna is my darling little doggie’s name. When I saw “Luna” in the book’s summary, I  knew this was a book for me!)

  • Fyrion, the stunted dragon who believes he’s enormous, is completely endearing. He had some of the funniest lines in the book. I liked him so much I want to name a future pet Fyrion, but it would have to be a reptile, and I can’t go there so…
  • Xan the misunderstood old witch. What a great character. Generous, kind and principled—and she makes mistakes.
  • Glerk, the swamp monster-poet and theologian  is so steadfast, so stable.
    Put the four together, sprinkle some Kelly Barnhill brand pixie dust, and KaPOW! Magic and delight on the pages.

3. Fantastic world building – “In the beginning was the bog … the bog is the poet and the poet is the bog …” Sounds silly here, but in the world of the book, the swamp monster’s origin story was perfect. Then there’s the wood and the bog and the volcano. The dreadful history of the Protectorate. The Sorrow Eater’s spectre. Magic that thrums and glows in Technicolor with flashes of silver. The shameful politics! So much to admire.

4. The lyrical writing – I noticed quite a few reviewers who tired of the writer’s repetition. It is true that the author’s makes great use of repetition, but it’s not arbitrary. The Mad Woman repeats, “She is here, she is here, she is here. ” It’s both a symptom of her madness and a device in the book. It was cleverly used, when her daughter picked up the phrase. To the nay-sayers, I suggest they “hear” the prose rather than just read it. It sounds sublime. Listen to the audiobook to experience the musicality of the prose. You may change your mind.

5. And speaking of the audiobook, the narration was pitch-perfect. Narrator Christina Moore gives a  stupendous performance. It was beguiling and heart-rending and joyful. A lot of my attraction to Xan had to do with the narrator’s voice. There was something beguiling about Xan’s voice. I rarely pick audio books by the narrator, but I will definitely look for out for her.

6. The storytelling – intriguing, exciting, and ultimately satisfying.

7. The cover –  Oh.my.bog. (a little in-text joke there, not a typo) The cover. It’s tantalising!

8. The words – Kelly Barnhill  lavishes beautiful, challenging words on her young readers. (She says she had fifth graders in mind when she wrote it. I love that she extends rather than simplifies.) This book may make its readers into logophiles.

9. The fluid concept of family – This story portrays different types of families. I especially like the “family” of Xan, Fyrion, Glerk and Luna. The ending of story initiates a beautiful new family constellation (I’m treading carefully to avoid spoilers…). Kids in adoptive, kinship or foster homes may be able to relate and find encouragement in the variety of loving, positive arrangements the book portrays.

10. Uplifting themes – Love and hope triumph over malice and sorrow. More than ever before, in this shifty, grey age of fake news and imploding politics, we need stories of hope and love .

How Good?

4.7 stars good. A few niggly little things made me scratch my head, but none was serious enough to mar my enjoyment of the book.

I have ordered a physical copy for my favourites shelf — that’s how good.

If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Read (and like) more of my reviews on Goodreads.

Image Credit

Flock of Geese, Photo by Ethan Weil on Unsplash

Book Review: Big Magic – Creativity Explored


Big Magic is one of those books that every creative should read. Full of insight, ideas, encouragement—it’s worth keeping a copy on the writer’s desk next to the dictionary, style guide, and Strunk & White.

Gilbert’s take on a few topics was so fresh and true that I teared up. She put words around an elusive struggle of the creative process, and I found it comforting to have it articulated so beautifully. But don’t get me wrong: it’s not mamby-pamby, self-help slop. She has mined the travails of her own creative life and brought out some gems to share. Some are wrapped in kindness, others are tough love with a swift butt-kick thrown in for good measure. I didn’t resonate with everything, but the bits that got me, got me good.

I especially appreciated her thoughts about burdening one’s creativity with the job of earning a living. She’s big on not quitting your job. All in all, Big Magic is a keeper, and it’s probably a book I will give as a gift to aspiring creatives.

On a final note, I listened to the excellent audio version narrated by the author, but I would recommend instead buying a physical copy to allow for thumbing through in moments of creative confusion or artistic desperation.

View all of my Goodreads reviews.

My Epic Poetic Odyssey Takes Off

Choosing the first poem to memorise for my Epic Poetic Odyssey was more difficult than I expected. After all, a poem memorised becomes a part of you.

In Grade 8, I memorised Lewis Carroll’s fantastical nonsense poem Jabberwocky, and it’s still with me. Maybe the burbling Jabberwock and the beamish boy are to blame for my bent towards fantastic adventures starring 11-year-old boys (Toby Fitzroy, I’m looking at you.) Now there’s a thought to ponder!

 

What if instead I’d memorised a religious verse like a segment of Milton’s Paradise Lost or something political like Hannah More’s Slavery: A Poem? Would I somehow be a different person today? A zealot or maybe an avenger. I wonder…

Critical Criteria

On a more practical note, I wanted to pick a poem that’s realistic in length and difficulty. It would be seriously embarrassing if I failed in the first month of my Odyssey, so, given the rusty state of my rote memory skills, I decided twenty-five lines or fewer would be best.

The poem had to speak to me in some way, either in form or lyricism, theme or allusion. Thirty-something years on from eighth grade, I’m no longer in a Jabberwocky frame of mind. I want a poetic punch in the solar plexus. Or at least a nudge that tickles, excites, or stirs me.

So with my criteria in mind, a short list of possibilities coalesced:

  • The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats
  • A Frog’s Fate by Christina Rossetti
  • Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116
  • Hope is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson
  • A Martian Sends a Postcard Home by Craig Raine
  • Love’s Philosophy by Percy Bysshe Shelley

And the Winner Is…

The first poem of my Epic Poetic Odyssey will be The Second Coming. Not exactly the cheeriest poem, but its timelessness speaks to me. Even though The Second Coming was written nearly a hundred years ago, Yeats’s observations about a world spinning out of control could be penned today. For example:

…Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.”

That pretty much sums up the maniacal circus that is world politics today. With the pillars of democracy teetering under the weight of insanity (or, in Yeats’s more poetic phrasing, “passionate intensity”), even the stoutest heart starts looking for a Second Coming.

Plus, it’s neat to see Yeats’s poignant phrases echoed in well-known literary works such as Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958) and Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968).

You can read the whole poem here. Tell me in the comments what you think of my first choice.

Watch This Space

So my assignment is set. For the next four weeks, I’ll be committing this poem to memory. Watch this space for resources, mnemonic devices, poetic interludes, and interviews with some of the delightful poets and poetry lovers I’m getting to know on my Epic Poetic Odyssey.

 

Image Credits via Unsplash

Photo by Jon Flobrant

Photo by Joshua Earl

* * *

John Tenniel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons,

My Epic Poetic Odyssey

I’m setting off on a yearlong adventure—my Epic Poetic Odyssey. For each of the next twelve months, I will select a poem and commit it to memory over the course of the month. Motivating me are the same desires that have launched adventurers throughout the ages: I want to expand my mind. I’m after refreshment and inspiration, new words and mindsets, bigger (mental) muscles, greater focus, and a flock of new friends.

I’ll hit the road as a neophyte, a near noob to all things poetical. My only training is high school English and a few fumbling poetic encounters as an adult. The academic approach left me cold and uninspired, so I’m changing tack and approaching as an explorer of new worlds, with curiosity as my compass and Google as my guide (and a few poet friends I intend to pester.)

Early each month, I’ll pick a poem to commit it to memory. Later that month, I’ll perform and post it. Along the way, I’ll share some inspiration—interviews with poets, a brace of poems caught in the wild, fantastic resources to dig through, and interesting insights to the world of poetry. No dull academics here—only wild, wordy adventure.

Wanted: One Band of Hearty Travel Companions

Care to join me on my Epic Poetic Odyssey? I can’t promise comfort in every poetic port, but I vow to keep you amused. How can it not be fun to watch me trip through Tennyson and wrestle with Robert Burns?

It’s easy: At the beginning of month, pick a poem to memorise. At the end of the month, perform and—if you want—share it. Or you can just encourage me by following and liking my posts. There will be laughs and gasps, thrills and spills, cheers and prizes! (Yay for prizes!)

Benefits of Joining the Adventure

Beyond the camaraderie, memory-making on the road, and said prizes there are lots of compelling reasons to read and memorise poetry.

Creative Superfood

Poetry is superfood for writers. It enriches vocabulary, encourages complex syntax, and develops the ear. It helps us to think and write evocatively. Perhaps most valuable of all for writers, poetry encourages brevity while discouraging insipid word choice. Memorising poetry builds the working memory capacity, which improves creativity.

Soul Food

When we are overloaded with information and overwhelmed by bad news, indulging in beauty and simple pleasures is salve for the soul. Reading and memorising poetry requires no special equipment or cash outlay—only some regular time to sit quietly and focus on words.

Focus—it’s the perfect antidote to technology-mediated attention deficit. Social media and electronic devices are affecting the way we read and diminishing our ability to focus. Some experts go farther, suggesting the Internet is making us stupid. Fight back with poetry memorisation. Negate negative news with a monthly dose of focused beauty. It will do your soul good.

Poetry can be a great connector. The sentiments it conveys—grief, despair, wonder, loneliness, awe—are universal, assuring the reader (or listener) they are not alone.

Cognitive Calisthenics

Reading, reciting, and memorising poetry do wonders for the brain. From teaching rhythm to children to staving off cognitive decline in old age, it’s part of the perfect brain fitness program no matter what age you are. I dare you not to be inspired after watching this darling three-year-old recite Billy Collins’s Litany. (Unlike last week’s tiny muse, I don’t know this little guy.)

 

Personal Development

Just think what amassing a mental storehouse of poetry will do for you! With a poem for every mood and occasion, you’ll have nearly no need for a therapist AND have an enviable party trick up your sleeve.

Travel Itinerary

My Epic Poetic Odyssey sets off on 1 September.

First poem selected by 3 September

Memorised by 27 September

Shared by 30 September

And ditto each month following

So, Are You In?

I hope you’ll join me! Jump in at any time. If you tag along, please leave a comment. You can memorise the same poem as mine or pick your own. Here’s a handy resource for finding a suitable poem to memorise. I’ll share more resources in upcoming posts.

I have a few days to decide on my first poem. I’d love you to leave some suggestions in the comments. Please, don’t assign me epic poetry in volumes 1 -3, and let’s agree not to start with Burns. Love him, but the first month’s poem has to be achievable! (I might set Burns for next July!)

Wish me luck and happy trails!

Image Credits from Unsplash:

Mantas Hesthaven

Thought Catalog

Joshua Earle

Credit

Adventurers by Visual Procrastinations, CC 2.0 BY-NC

 

 

 

Creativity Pep Talk: Dream Big

Dream Big

Sometimes circumstances limit us. Sometimes it’s our piddly thinking. We set a big goal one day and talk ourselves down the next, not daring to believe we can pull it off. We trust our lack more than we trust our dream.

I dare you to dream big. Imagine the biggest, bestest dream you can, a dream that energises you and gives your life meaning and direction, a dream that will one day leave a legacy. Transcribe it all in your journal. Having a record is important, so don’t skip this step. As you write in your journal, consider some of the points below.

The Procurement & Care of a Big Dream

Making Meaning

Ask yourself, “What is life expecting of me?” The mind might shy away, deny, downplay, or rationalise, but deep in our souls we know what our Big Dream is. In the movie Chariots of Fire, runner Eric Liddell said he could “feel God’s pleasure” when he ran. Racing in the Olympics became his Big Dream.

When do you sense transcendent pleasure? What gives you joy? Both hint at your Big Dream. Never forget: those two words, pleasure and joy, hint at fun. Don’t forget to have fun! It’s go-go juice for the dream.

Scare Yourself

‘Big’ means challenging. A Big Dream is one that is bigger than you—way bigger. It’s something that necessarily requires growth, determination, resilience and heaps of courage. You know the adage:

If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.

You have to be willing to go through the discomfort of learning and the pain of growing and even face the possibility that you may never fully realise your Big Dream. After all, if you know you can do it, it’s not a Big Dream; it’s an exercise or a task, like playing scales on the piano, and where’s the challenge in that?

Don’t Be Stingy

Give yourself unreservedly to your Big Dream. Learn everything you can. Befriend like-dreaming people and find excellent mentors. Don’t hold back time or money or energy. Being stingy with your Big Dream is cheating yourself. Brown bag your lunch. Buy cheap shampoo. Pinch all the pennies you want, but don’t short-change your dream.

Avoid Comparison

Remember that it’s your Big Dream, so don’t compare your progress to other people’s. Not only is comparison pointless, it will make you miserable.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

When Temptation Knocks…

When the temptation to downsize your dream inevitably comes to torment you, be prepared. Meet it head on with your journal. Remind yourself what you want and why. Revisit the transcendence. If you run out of steam or lose your joy over your Big Dream, stop and reflect. Are you comparing yourself to someone? Or have you ‘gone grim’ and forsaken fun? Either way, take a break and schedule time to play and experience beauty. Resolve to focus less on results and more on process. This allows you to relish the now.

Do It. Just. Do. It.

And finally, just do it. Don’t waste time wondering if you can or should. Don’t worry if you’re good enough. Stop sweating over other people’s progress. Just do it. Here’s a great pep talk from my friend’s talented daughter when she was three.

Isn’t she clever?

Wherever you are in the course of following your Big Dream, I encourage you to keep going no matter what. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you’ll land among the stars.”

 

 

Photography by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash, CC 2.0. Modified by the author.