Kenya

Kenya
My reading companion of 17 years, Kenya

Friday, December 27, 2019

Arthur and Sherlock

In researching the roots of Sherlock Holmes,  Michael Sims has delivered a book that is rich in details about Arthur Canon Doyle, and the influences in his life that created the fictional Sherlock Holmes.  This book also provides an in-depth picture of the creation of the detective novel genre itself.

Sherlock Holmes was a new kind of hero, a new kind of detective. Before the 1880s, most detective type characters were innocent victims of a conspiracy or caught in a crime based on revenge that they had to figure their way out of.  When creating Sherlock, Doyle was influenced by the characters created by Poe and Dickens and a few other well known writers at the time, but the greatest influence was a professor from Doyle's medical school, Dr. Joseph Bell.  Without all the medical equipment and test that are used to train doctors today, Bell's method involved the power of deduction.  He taught his students how to really look at their patients to deduct the possible origins of the problem being solved.  This was Sherlock's dominant trait.  The one that made him stand apart of all other fictional detective characters.

Holmes's was a new kind of detective - working for himself, bragging about his genius, often sleeping all day while tracking miscreants by night, belittling Scotland Yard detectives, reckless in his behaviors, nonchalant regarding money, but all the while demonstrating the potential of sheer intellectual power.

Doyle liked to think of himself as bohemian even though he was very ambitious, committed to his medical career, preoccupied with money and devoted to his family - traits not usually associated with the bohemian lifestyle. These traits became part of Holmes' persona.  Doyle often tried medical experiments on himself while in medical school and gave this reckless, come what may attitude to Holmes as well. Doyle also saw himself as brave and indomitable and he gave those traits to Holmes as well.

Although Edgar Allen Poe was mostly known for his fantasy and macabre novels, crime fiction was never the same after his contribution of the eccentric French detective Monsieur Dupin in a few short stories starting with The Murders in Rue Morgue.  The Murders in Rue Morgue may be the first detective novel. Doyle borrowed from Poe in making Holmes a  collector of violins and carefully locating Holmes' headquarters at 221 Baker Street.  Arthur also created Dr. Watson to act as a Boswell to bring Holmes to life.  On one occasion Watson writes about Holmes, " knows nothing of gardening but his understanding of chemistry is profound. Holmes can box, play the violin and handle a sword."

There are so many details in this book that will keep the reader saying, "OMG, I didn't know that." It's a fascinating read, but it may take time because you will want to digest each element as a kind of food for thought, or, if you are a creative writer - food for the soul.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Somewhere Still

This is a coming-of-age story and begins when Jean, the protagonist, is 17 years old.  The story follows Jean through the devastating loss of her mother and into a much bigger and more complicated world than she could ever have imagined her future to be.

Ms. Ward does a great job in describing the 1920s era from the secretive speakeasies to the social and political climate surrounding women's organizations which were energized with the  passage of the19th amendment.  Due to the influence of a strong women's group, Jean was able to secure the job of an elevator operator which was usually a man's job in the twenties.   It's a good paying job at a luxury hotel and enables the story to take some interesting turns.

While it touches on the women's movement and the power of sisterhood, it also reveals the social and cultural aspect of race in that era. Jean's relationships with the other tenants in her apartment complex is beautifully written and you understand how difficult social norms made friendships between the races. Whether it's the main character or her friends or other tenants, all the characters in this book are well-developed.  The characters and plot are believable and the story has a wonderful sense of place.

I think the title of the book is superb.  Once you read the book, you'll know to what the title refers.  Plus the word 'somewhere' is used in different aspects through the story. It's a very enjoyable read and the story moves at a good pace.

As you can tell by the cover this is book one in a series.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Writers' Digest Conference - August 2019

The Writers' Digest Conference held in New York City was a blast.
I'm a city person so I enjoyed walking around the city and seeing the sites. However, the fast pace of the conference was right in line with the pace of the city so there was little time to play in the city.

The conference offered an array of programs within the scope of the industry's realm.  There were sessions on Fiction and Non Fiction, Crafting, Publishing, Screenwriting and Platform Building.  When not attending a session there were also plenty of vendors on hand to answer questions regarding publishing, social media etc.

I enjoy writing short stories.  Editing Your  Short Stuff presented by Windy Lynn Harris was a must for me to attend.  She beautifully crafted a session explaining the hat you wear as a creative writer vs the hat you wear as an editor.  Her suggestion to "imagine that this piece was written by someone else." is good advice but harder that it appears.  I needed this session.  Thank you Windy Lynn Harris: https://windylynnharris.com/

Each session at the conference was timed for an hour and took place on the second floor of the Hilton Hotel in Midtown.  The hotel is close to Radio City Hall and not far from the Rockefeller Center  to give people an idea of where it was held in the city.  Lunch was on your own but there were several eating places close by that offered healthy as well as quick lunches.  My first choice was CafĂ© 53 which was across the street from the hotel.

After lunch on Friday my first session was How To Evoke Emotion in Every Scene given by Jordan Rosenfeld.  Under the category of fiction, this session was very helpful regarding crafting scenes that  hooks the reader into identifying/liking/understanding your character.  Her handout, The Character Cues, is helpful for building and revealing your character to the reader.

 The Panel of Debut Authors was a delight to attend.  The high energy and enthusiasm of the authors was fun to be around.  They gave me a better understanding of what to expect from the publishing world whether I'd go with a large publishing house, small press or e-book
publishing. 

Later I also attended a session with Keah Brown and her agent, Alex Slater.  At that session they talked more about the relationship between author and agent and the market for the memoir.  Excellent session.



There were so many intriguing sessions offered that it was hard to decide for some time slots which one to choose.  I wanted so much to listen to Jane Cleland's Openings That Kill It but I also wanted to do more character crafting.  I decided on Crafting Dynamic Characters by Heather Webb and it was a wise choice for me.   Her advise about bringing characters to life using secrets, contradictions, emotional triggers or defining moments was appreciated.  She talked quite a bit about the character arc and the different types of arcs.  It was all very beneficial.  Thank you Heather Webb: http://www.heatherwebbauthor.com/author/.

There were so many good presentations, but I need to talk about just one more before I wrap this up.

Using Prose Poetry & Flash Fiction to Improve Your Novel presented by Ran Walker was an amazing workshop.  It blew me away.  I chosed it on a whim mainly because I never thought about the connection before so I knew it would be new info.  The session was a delight.  Plus I learned of a new poetic structure that I had never run into before: Kwansaba.  Many of us in the class had not heard of that but we all participated in an exercise that turned out to be incredible.  I was surprised at what I did and then I listened to other's endeavors and I was amazed. Utterly amazed.  There were other give aways at this conference but that structure for me was the best.  Thank you Ran Walker: http://www.ranwalker.com/

Thanks to all for reading my post.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

International Women's Writing Guild (IWWG) Summer Conference - 2019

https://www.iwwg.org/
My next writing conference for the year was with a group of which I'm a member: IWWG.  It was held in July at the Muhlenberg College in Allentown Pa.  When registering you could decide to stay for a week or just do the weekend.   


There were many remarkable elements of this conference, but the overwhelming component that gave this event its uniqueness was comradery among the attendees.  We were like-minded creatives willing to help one another plus many of us stayed in the dorms at the college.  This was the first time I had ever stayed in a dorm and my three roommates and I became good friends by the time the weekend was over.






The next incredible surprise was the delicious and sensational food prepared by the college staff.  I had no idea there were colleges with that type of food.  It was way above anything I bought in the cafeteria of my college. There were signs in the restaurant displaying awards bestowed on the college chef for the tasty dishes.


With all that being said, the real draw was the variety of presentations offered and the level of expertise available for the different topics.  The main categories were:  Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction, Memoir, Mixed Media, Multi-genre, Publishing, Screenwriting & Performance. Fiction and Nonfiction Critique sessions were also available.

I attended many presentations over the weekend but I think the most beneficial one was The Five Senses of Fiction given by Yun Wei. In each session we worked on how to bring the reader into the story by incorporating a specific sense into the story.  The workshop made me more aware of how smell and taste can help build a scene and a character's emotional response.  Thank you Yun Wei.

IWWG is a treasure trove available to those who want to improve or indulge their creative souls.  If you are one of those creative souls you will want to check out their upcoming and ongoing events:  https://www.iwwg.org/.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Philadelphia's Writers' Conference - June 2019






This summer I was fortunate to attend three writers' conferences.  That's right -  not one, not two but three.  I'm a lucky person.

My first one was the Philadelphia Writers' Conference (PWC) held June 7-9 in the historic district of Philadelphia.  It was three days of high energy, great information, and comradery.  The speakers had a vast array of knowledge and the presentations were rich with details and useful information.  All the session I attended were good but I went to 3 exceptional ones.





Elements of Plot 1 & 2 sessions: Shirley Hailstock, gave a great presentation on both days.  I took copious notes and she has suck a vibrant way of talking and such high energy that the time just flew by.  Thank you Shirley Hailstock: http://shirleyhailstock.net/







Social Media and Personal Branding: Jonothat Maberry.  I'm on FB, Twitter and have a few blogs but I find it all confusing and time-consuming so I look for help whenever I can get it.  This session was very helpful and I am using some of his suggestions.  He's a really good speaker and was very likely in his presentation.  I am grateful for the information he gave us in the session.  He has a wonderful website with some freebies on it and a great example of a query letter. Thank you Jonothan Mayberry:  http://www.jonathanmaberry.com/


This is the Year You Write Your Memoir:  Lori Tharps.  I've read memoirs, Glass Castle, being my favorite but I never really thought of writing one until this session.  Ms. Tharps had all of us engaged with interesting writing exercises and I was amazed how much I enjoyed it.  She went over how you should approach writing a themed memoir and a woman who she is working with shared with us a folder and post it notes that helped her keep things organized.  Thank you Lori Tharps:  https://www.loriltharps.com/.


I enjoyed this conference immensely.  It was help at the Wyndham in Center City and it's price was within reason but I'm not sure people know about it.  It had a lower attendance than it should have given the quality of its presenters and the various levels of sessions offered.  Thank you to the PWC Board for putting together such a great conference.




Wednesday, July 3, 2019

I, Eliza Hamilton


I, Eliza Hamilton is a well-researched, well-written piece of historical fiction that will engage all your senses and keep you reading way pass bedtime.  It is 400+ pages of fabulously written story.  The description of the era, especially the clothing, is astonishingly appealing and delightful to read.  There is alot of  description in this book but it has a purpose.  It draws you into the lives of Alexander and Elizabeth as though you were in the living room with them.

Eliza is a very strong women who is devoted to her husband Alexander and is often brought into his work world for her ability to help him navigate the political turmoil of his day.  Unfortunately she can not save him from his reckless self.  He is a man of honor and always fights to defend that part of him even if it means a duel.  We all know how his story ends but this book is about her and she outlives him by 50 years.  She is an amazing woman.  do yourself a favor and get to know her.

I highly recommend this book.