The Cult of Daffodils

 

I want to share my new garden and flower blog with my loyal followers and readers here at Spilling Ink. Oh My Garden! is full of lovely floral/botanical content. There are even book reviews, like the reblogged post below that follows up on my October poem.

I’d be so encouraged if you’d follow Oh My Garden! (It’s lonely over there!)
– Ali

Oh My Garden!

It’s no wonder daffodils have enjoyed a cult-like following throughout history. They are a complete sensory package: Their vibrant colour is visually stimulating. Their scent, in my mind, is the essence of spring, freshness and hope epitomised. Even their texture is highly agreeable. At the thought of them, I can conjure up the sense of the stems, cool and springy, in my hand.

Daffodils have inspired artists and poets alike. Wordsworth’s poem, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ is possibly the most famous example. On my literature blog Spilling Ink, I spent the month of October (spring in Australia) memorising those lovely verses. That exercise ignited an intense bout of xanthophilia, a fondness of all things yellow. It also led me down the garden path, thinking about daffodils and wanting to know more.

Flower Fanaticism?

Daffodils are lovely, but do they inspire obsession? Yes, absolutely, and if you doubt me, read

View original post 632 more words

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A Poem About Writing

 

It’s November and #MyEpicPoeticOdyssey continues as I memorise a poem about writing to celebrate NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month, the event that sends the world into a foaming frenzy of literary creation and masterpiece making. Rather than launching a new novel project, I’m doing #NaNoReWriMo, during which I slay mutant plot bunnies and bushwhack my way to a sleek new version.

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When I started my poetic quest a few months ago, it was all about making time for poetry in my life while also laying claim to a few choice poetical side effects, namely the mental exercise of memorisation and the writerly benefit of studying the economy of poetry.

Memorisation has been hugely enjoyable, but even more fun has been the monthly search for a new poem: digging through piles of poetry, reading and savouring until one calls my name. “Pick me! Pick me!”

The Author to Her Book

AnnebradstreetThe poem about writing I’ve chosen for November is ‘The Author to Her Book’, by Anne Bradstreet. I’d never heard of this lady before, but it turns out she has quite a pedigree! She was the first poet published in the New World. Not America’s first woman poet —its first poet (period).

And if that’s not cool enough, it turns out Puritan Anne moonlighted as a badass feminist. The collection that was America’s first published poetry, The Tenth Muse  Lately Sprung Up in America, contains a stinging prologue to her critics. Check out her sarcasm as she poo-poos the notion of ‘proper women’s work’:

I am obnoxious to each carping tongue

Who says my hand a needle better fits.

A poet’s pen all scorn I should thus wrong;

For such despite they cast on female wits,

If what I do prove well, it wont advance-

They’ll say it was stolen, or else it was by chance.

Go Anne! It must have been tough back in the day for smart women. And our Anne was smart, equipped to write about history, politics, theology and medicine. She had a library of over 9,000 books that were eventually lost in a house fire, one tragedy among many in her life.

800px-The_Tenth_Muse_by_Anne_BradstreetThough sickly (suffering smallpox and tuberculosis), she was the mother of eight children and appears to have enjoyed a happy marriage until her death at age 60.

So this NaNo November as I wrestle through my umpteenth rewrite of my current manuscript, I’m going to memorise Anne’s poem. It  captures the writer’s angst I know all too well,  of work that doesn’t measure up to the impossible inner standard. She composed this poem after her first collection was supposedly “snatcht”, spirited away and published by a (male) friend.

THE AUTHOR TO HER BOOK

THOU ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain, 

Who after birth did’st by my side remain, 

Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true 

Who thee abroad, expos’d to publick view, 

Made thee in raggs, halting to th’ press to trudge, 

Where errors were not lessened (all may judg). 

At thy return my blushing was not small, 

My rambling brat (in print) should mother call, 

I cast thee by as one unfit for light, 

Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight; 

Yet being mine own, at length affection would 

Thy blemishes amend, of so I could: 

I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw, 

And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw. 

I stretcht thy joynts to make thee even feet, 

Yet still thou run’st more hobling then is meet; 

In better dress to trim thee was my mind, 

But nought save home-spun Cloth, i’th’ house I find. 

In this array, ‘mongst Vulgars mayst thou roam, 

In Criticks hands, beware thou dost not come; 

And take thy way where yet thou art not known, 

If for thy Father askt, say, thou hadst none: 

And for thy Mother, she alas is poor, 

Which caus’d her thus to send thee out of door. 

 

This will be a challenging poem to memorise with its Seventeenth Century English. Wish me luck!

To all the #WriMo-ers and especially to my fellow #ReWriMo-ers, may the Muse be with you! See you at the finish line!

 

 

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

Image of Anne and her Title Page,  both Public Domain

Picking Next Year’s Planner

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With 2017 winding down, it’s time to  share my top 5 picks for planners for 2018.

It’s no newsflash that I am fond of lovely stationery, but I go gaga over new planners. Planners are the mother of all stationery, a blessed union of paper and ink, printing and binding, layout and design. They are both tool and creation, a space for both organisation and inspiration.

My Criteria

Seeing my planner gets a gruelling 365 days of daily use, I don’t rush the selection process. My planner must tick all the boxes. Of course, looks are an important factor, but ultimately a planner has to be supremely useable.

  1. A full combination of spreads:  yearly, monthly, weekly and daily spaces, because they all have their uses.
  2. Not too bulky: My handbag is heavy enough without adding the weight of a phonebook. ON the other hand…
  3. …Not too pokey: I need room to write, remind, draw, plot…
  4. Sturdy: It has to be able to withstand the vortex of death, aka my handbag. Rounded corners and a sturdy cover required.
  5. Quality paper: No thanks to blinding blizzard white, yes please to soothing, restrained ivory – with a smooth finish s’il vous plaît.
  6. Lie-flat binding: I like a planner that opens all the way without wrestling it. And forget the icky spine-breaking nonsense. I dislike wire spiral binders that get in the way and render half the writing surface a no-go-zone.
  7. Bonuses: A ribbon page marker is helpful. **Stickers** are fun, the icing on the planner cake.

 

My Top Five Choices for 2018

  • Milligram 2018 Family Diary – Weekly Notebook – A5
  • Pilot 2018 Diary for Writers
  • Kiki.K Leather Planner – Sweet
  • MochiThings 2018 Flowery Weekly Journal
  • Hobonichi Techno Cousin

 

Milligram Family Diary

Milligram 2018 Family DiaryUp first, the 2018 Family Diary from Melbourne’s Milligram (formerly NoteMaker, one of my favourite Australian stationers). Having just rebranded, they’ve launched their own line of Milligram diaries. They’re onto a good thing with this fantastic family-friendly planner. The weekly spread has two pages where everyone’s activities can be noted along with meal planning. There’s a budgeting page and other cool features, like **stickers**! I especially like the gorgeous cover designs and pleasing page layout, created by designer-illustrator-author Beci Orpin.

This planner is perfect for busy families, but as a new empty-nester, this one isn’t the best fit for me now.

A$44.95*

 

Pilot 2018 Diary for Writers

Pilot Diary for Writers 2018This one is a handy tool for writers. The Pilot 2018 Diary for Writers is chock-a-block full of writerly information, inspiration and wisdom in the form of quotes, competitions, festivals and awards. There are pages to track submissions, record lent and borrowed books, and list interesting TBRs.

Three cheers for the excellent paper and targeting writers’ needs, but one frowny-face for the spiral binding.

A$26.95*

 

Kiki.K Sweet Large Leather Planner

Kiki.K Leather Planner SweetOkay: it’s leather. And it has Pugs. And kittens. Say no more.

Nobody in the stationery business does ‘whimsical’ like Kiki.K. They also do ‘gorgeous,’ ‘stylish,’ and ‘wow,’ but I’m smitten with the range they call Sweet, with its cute hand-drawn pugs, kittens, ink bottles, cacti, and more. The Kiki.K Sweet Planner is white leather printed with the Sweet motifs. Inside is lined with a beautiful shade of eggshell blue. It has customisable tabs, is refillable, and comes with **stickers**.

It’s gorgeous but a little too bulky for me.

A$84.95*

 

MochiThings 2018 Flowery Weekly Journal

MochiThings Flowery Journal 2018 Planner.

MochiThings is a wonderful online stationer selling  a full range Korean paper products, from basic to deluxe, plain to cutesy. Planners come in a huge variety of sizes and styles – seriously, they have all kinds of binding, every size, layout, and design you could want. The one I like is called Flowery Weekly Journal. It features a floral cover, is compact in size with a week-to-a-spread, and has the all-important lie-flat binding.

This is very similar to the MochiThings diary I chose for 2017, which worked out great except that I found the B5 size a little too tight.

You’ll want to check out the array of planner accessories for sale at MochiThings.com: there’s washi tape out the wazoo and **stickers** galore. Check out this scrummy Scheduler Kit.

Flowery Weekly Journal – US$22.95*

 

Hobonichi Techno Cousin

Hobonichi planners are a premium Japanese product with a worldwide cult following. Why are so many people crazy about Hobonichis?

  • The one planner has it all: year, month, week and day pages.
  • 180º lie-flat binding
  • Tomoe River paper (high quality smooth but thin pages to reduce bulk)
  • Daily quotes and quirky information
  • Graph paper pages for design
  • A dazzling array of cool covers to dress up your planner and reuse year after year.
  • Covers have a built-in pen holder and two ribbon markers.
  • A variety of sizes: Weeks is long and narrow. Techno Original is a compact A6 size. Cousin is larger, A5 size.

J¥ 7,020* for Cousin + cover

 

And the Winner Is…

Hobonichi Cousin 2018.  I am trying out the larger A5 version called Cousin to give myself additional room for jotting notes. As mentioned, B5 cramped my style.

Going with the larger version means I have to read my dates in Japanese kanji, but I think I will manage. Although I won’t be able to enjoy the quotes (and information about quirky things like stretching, Japanese fast food, emergency preparedness, and Japanese holidays), but I can read the days and dates thanks to my years of living in Asia and studying Chinese (and a little Japanese). If Cousin’s language thing is a deal breaker, the good news is the Hobonichi Techno Planner (smaller A6 size) comes in an all English version.

I thought I’d try the variety called Avec, which breaks the year into two volumes, halving the weight of the planner.

Hobonichi Techno Cousin 2018 Avec

Choosing from the 19 different cover designs for Cousin was fun.  I picked a happy shade of yellow with white polka dots and an ice blue interior. Isn’t it darling? I can’t wait to start using it.

Hobonichi Techno Cousin Vitamin Dot Cover 2018

Hobonichi planners can be bought online at Milligram or through the official Hobonichi site.

 

Over to You!

Got a favourite planner that I should look into (for 2019)? Do you stick with the same one year after year or, like me, keep hunting for the perfect planner? I hope you find a good one for 2018.

Image Credits

Arnel Hasanovic via Unsplash

Planner images via various retailers’ websites

*Prices are approximate and correct at the time of publication.

Writing Kidlit Magical Realism

 

Gene Wolfe advises young writers at the Shared Worlds camp. Via BuzzFeed

Today, I stumbled across this piece of writing advice from sci-fi writer Gene Wolfe. “Start the next book.”

Yikes! I’m still editing The Temple of Lost Time with my ASA mentor. I just finished an epic overhaul involving the wholesale slaughter of darlings and ruthless culling of scenes that slimmed my pudgy 66,000-word manuscript down to a lean 54,000 words with a taut-n-terrific middle. Next we polish.

I can’t possibly start something else.

Can I?

I’ve been reluctant to work on multiple writing projects at once. What if I mix up characters or lose the voice of one work or do something stupid with the files?

Erm, no. I’ve realised two things. First, it’s unlikely that I’d have two manuscripts at the same stage of development. The kind of thinking and energy required in pre-writing is very different to that of outlining, drafting, revising and finessing.

Second, I will not manage to create a significant body of work if I maintain my current ambling pace. Just as stores need stock to sell, serious writers need finished works. It’s time for me to shift gears to generate more stories.

Off the Back Burner

My Graceland (working title) project is so exciting I’m almost giggling at the prospect of sticking my fingers into its gooey belly. After some 12 months of preparatory mulling and reading, I have a protagonist named Tallulah and a cast of odd-bod characters, a cool setting I can’t wait to explore, an intriguing genre, and the first shreds of research.

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Graceland will be a contemporary middle-grade coming-of-age story with a dusting of magical realism. I want to create a story that feels like Roald Dahl’s Matilda—funny and poignant, filled with heartbreak and hope, but with a darker, issue-laden backdrop. The Secret Life of Bees comes to mind, but my protagonist will be 12 or 13, a year or two younger than Lily Owens in Bees. And I want some wry Aussie humour to buoy it. Think: Cloudstreet for kids.

Why Magical Realism?

We all know the adage: Write the book you want to read. Well, the book I just described is exactly what I want to read. If I l lined my favourites on a shelf, I would see a trend – a strong leaning toward magical realism, which I love because it’s atmospheric. Think of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Secret Lives of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Skellig by David Almond

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Even elements of The Secret Garden could be considered magical realism.

The bigger question is what is magical realism. It’s a valid question, because just about everyone—including authors, agents and editors—is confused.  It’s no wonder: magical realism is by nature vague. Simply put, it portrays a mundane world where magical (or miraculous) things happen without question or explanation.

 “If you can explain it, then it’s not magical realism.” – Luis Leal

I have been reading up on the genre for a while now to prepare myself. I hope I can pull it off. It takes a light touch to get the balance of realism and magic right—subtle yet substantial. It can’t be tinsel and bobbles tossed on at the end. It has to lie in the warp and weft of the story. More reading is required. With any luck, I’ll absorb ‘it’ by osmosis.

Really Good Magical Realism Resources

Lindsay Moore‘s Magical Realism article on the Emory Postcolonial Studies site presents a brief academic overview with two examples and a useful list of characteristics.

How about an academic  article that refers specifically to magical realism in children’s literature? In particular, David Almond’s Skellig. Don Latham’s paper is insightful. Particularly useful are the references to Wendy Faris’s five characteristics of magical realism. What a find this was! It came from a site called Alice’s Academy, which is an off-shoot of The Looking Glass: New Perspectives in Children’s Literature, a database which is now hosted by Australia’s La Trobe University. #RabbitHoleWarning!

Agent-Editor-Author Michelle Witte has a 5-part series that unpacks magical realism and gives some examples of texts. She boils it down to “ordinary events with a touch of the extraordinary.” Michelle’s series is comprehensive and avoids getting bogged down in the political and historical roots of the genre/movement. Those are interesting and valid points, but they don’t help with creativity.

Ted Gioia, a world authority on jazz and books, covers the latter on one of his sites, Conceptual Fiction. One year, he completed A Year of Magical Reading, reading and reviewing a book a week that incorporates elements of fantasy, magic, or the surreal. Use this one to find well-written reviews on what Ted calls Conceptual Fiction, which is literary genre fiction. I spent a couple of hours browsing his virtual shelves. #RabbitHoleWarning!

My Goodreads Magical Realism shelf  has over thirty titles to consider. Take a look if you’re looking for titles for kids or adults. Or the HuffPost has nine suggestions for grown-ups.

[I will add more resources as I find them.]

Going to Graceland

Now that I’ve given myself permission to work on Graceland, I’ll continue reading magical realism for grownups and children. I’ll research elements of the story (setting, themes, etc) in earnest, looking for my propelling nugget of goodness or PNG, a deliciously quirky fact that makes my story take off. And I’ll start planning my character arcs working toward an outline…

…All while polishing the other MS, The Temple of Lost Time.

Over to You

Do you have a favourite magical realism title? What do you think about working on more than one project at a time? Got any tips?

Image Credits

Gene Wolfe’s hand via BuzzFeed

Record Store by Yaroslav Blokhin via Unsplash

Staying Ground by Rob Potter via Unsplash

My Epic Poetic Odyssey – October

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October’s Poem

Wordsworth’s ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud‘ is the poem I’ll memorise in October. I’m two months into my Epic Poetic Odyssey, in which I commit a poem a month to memory.

Why? Personal enrichment, brain exercise, and to practise a cool party trick. Poetry memorisation is good for the brain and the soul. If I’m lucky, I’ll acquire a life-long habit, and maybe even develop a poetic sensibility.

Daffodils

October is for falling leaves and pumpkins, right? Not in the Southern Hemisphere where I live! It’s funny—even after nearly thirty years of living Down Under, I still thought of autumn when I was picking this month’s poem.

It’s spring here, and the jacarandas are exploding in a soft purple haze. Colour is peeking out of every corner of my garden. Even my house plants are showing off. I wanted a poem about flowers, and this one is perfect.

After September‘s bleak and heavy poem, I also wanted something light, like skipping through a field of brilliant yellow flowers!

I’ll be back at the end of the month, when Wordsworth’s words have become part of me.

Happy spring – or autumn, wherever you may be!

Daffodils_annie-spratt-197098

Over to You

Got a favourite poem? Let me know in the comments!

Image Credits

Stefanos Kogkos via Unsplash, modified by the author

Annie Spratt via Unsplash

My Epic Poetic Odyssey – First Poem

Say what? “The falcon cannot hear the falconer…” 

I’ve reached my goal for the first month of my Epic Poetic Odyssey. September’s poem, ‘The Second Coming’ by William Butler Yeats, has been laid down in my synapses.

In my quest for personal and literary enrichment, I have embarked on a program of memorising a poem a month. Even though I’m in the early days of this quest, I’m already reaping unexpected rewards.

New Friends

One of the loveliest windfalls has been meeting new people, like Shirley, a lovely lady named who contacted me through my Ali Stegert Facebook page. Retired teacher Shirley describes herself as a ‘literature tragic and iPad fanatic.’ She originally set out to memorise ten poems, and she’s now on her 87th now! She’s set a new goal of memorising 100 poems. Such an inspiration! Keep an eye out for my upcoming posts that feature Shirley and other poetry loving people I meet on my way.

Shirley’s top tip for memorising poetry was to look for and follow the line of thought. I tried this out and it worked. I memorised ‘The Second Coming’ within three or four days. The rest of the month I worked on fluency.

September’s Poem

‘The Second Coming’ speaks of a world spinning out of control, which resonates with me. Although the poem is grim, I find it reassuring to know that the current ‘falling apart’ in the political arena has happened before and yet life goes on. The poem was published in 1919*, which means Yeats probably worked on it in 1918 or even earlier, possibly in the chaos leading up to and during WWI.

So far, I have resisted my new-found urge to recite poetry in the middle of conversations, much to the relief of my family, but almost every time I watch the news, these lines burn in my mind:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; | Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;| The best lack all conviction while the worst | Are full of passionate intensity.

The Poet’s Intention

Reading up on the Nobel Prize for Literature winner Yeats, I found out that what he meant in the poem and what I ‘heard’ are two very different things. Although the language and themes of the poem are familiar and Biblical-sounding to me, Yeats apparently held more to mysticism, magic and occult spiritualism than Christianity. He was a wild-minded poet and statesman who espoused some unorthodox philosophies and original theories. For example, the ‘gyre’ of the poem is not a metaphor for a world spiralling out of control as I thought. Yeats propounded gyres as a historical phenomenon, something that accompanies ‘Spiritus Mundi’ or the spirit of the world, in his complex mystical theory.

So, there’s the poet’s intention and my reading of it. Does this mean I read it wrongly and that I should always check the poet’s background and beliefs? Or does it mean that good poetry is good because it speaks on different levels at different times. I still like the poem, but I have no intention of adopting a mystical belief in ‘gyres.’

What Was I Thinking?

Boy, do I regret my promise to post a video of me reciting each month’s poem. As someone who dislikes even being photographed let alone being filmed, I’m cringing as I post this. I have almost no experience with editing and uploading videos. However, I’ve decided to suck it up and see this as another area for personal growth and professional development. Here’s hoping my performance, recording and broadcasting skills improve over the next 12 months! (Bear with me! You’ve got to start somewhere, right?)

The wind started howling right at the line about the ‘reeling shadows of indignant desert birds’. I cracked an incongruent smile right at the poem’s most dramatic and bleak moment. Many thanks to my inspiring writer friend Debbie Smith, who videoed me and didn’t laugh.

I promise—without the added pressure of being filmed I can recite the poem fluently! (I got a couple words wrong).

Forward Ho!

I have narrowed down a list of poems for October. I’ll share my choice next week, so stay tuned. And remember, I’d love to have your company on my Epic Poetic Odyssey. You don’t have to commit to 12 months! Jump in and out at any time! I can tell you from experience that one poem in a month is not hard.

So, what do you think? Have you got any tips on memorising or reciting poetry? Know of any good resources on making nice videos? Please leave a comment!

Image Credit:

Giovanni Calia via Unsplash

Tim Mossholder via Unsplash

Modified by the author

*Another source said the poem appeared in 1921.

 

 

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