Tag Archives: stories

Writing Prompt Wednesday


BOOKWORM – this is your starting point for a story…should be easy!

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I have to confess I had an ulterior motive for volunteering to look after the book stall at the village fete. Not only would I have first pick of the books but it was nicely situated in a large tent so no matter what the weather conditions I would be protected.

As it happened we were lucky to have glorious sunshine on the day of the fete, it isn’t always so. Having the tent meant I had plenty of luscious shade. I’m not a sun worshiper at the best of times. After spending several hours organizing the books so that they were in categories, I sat back with a satisfying cup of tea.  I surveyed the mismatched tables filling the tent and felt proud of my efforts. With a couple of large cushions to pad out my deck chair I would endure the day. I knew it will be long and I like my comfort.

Settling into my chair to take a second look at my selections I quickly become engrossed in a tale of ancient Rome.  A shadow falls onto the page – my first customer of the day. Not wanting to seem too pushy, I continue to read, letting them browse unhindered. When I eventually look up I see a stick thin man dressed in a mac and hat with his nose literally inside a book. His spectacles have thick glass but obviously not thick enough. Upon closer inspection I notice he has mis-matched shoes, one black and one brown. Was he colour blind as well? 

“May I help you Sir?”

 “No thank you. I’m perfectly fine.”

 Remaining in my seat I observe this gentleman as he fills a wicker basket with books and precariously crams even more under his arm along with his umbrella. He is definitely not a local, I know most people in the village through my various committees. My curiosity must show as he nervously glances my way.

 “Have I done something wrong? Is there a limit to how many books I can purchase?”

 “Not at all – take as many as you like. I was just wondering where you lived as you are not familiar to me. Sorry if I was staring.”

 “Oh I see.”

 That was it, no explanation, no further conversation. He just continued rummaging through the hundreds of books without further comment. What a strange fellow.

The tent is filling up with other visitors anyway so I become distracted with purchases and questions for some time. A polite cough makes me turn and I am faced with the gentleman’s thin face peering over the top of his spectacles at me.

“May I pay for these books?”

“Yes of course. My, you have a real hoard there don’t you. Do you know how many?”

“Well I didn’t count them. Was I supposed to?”

“Not to worry. Shall we count together?”

“If you feel it’s necessary.”

Our count completed and the purchase made the man turns to leave laden down with thirty books.

“I hope you enjoy all your books.”

“Well of course I shall. I wouldn’t have bought them otherwise, now would I?”

I grit my teeth and smile, thinking some people are very odd but there’s no reason to be rude.  I turn to my next customer in line and exchange pleasantries with Miss Tooms. She is such a dear soul.

“Don’t take offense Muriel. Mr. Boekenworm has never been the social type even at school.”

“You know him Miss Tooms?”

 “Oh yes dear. We went to school together, here in the village actually, many moons ago of course. He was always teased about his name you see and it made him very insular.”

 “It’s a very novel name I must say.”

 “It means bookworm and he always has been. Lived up to his name you could say.”

 “That must have been very difficult as a child, I’m sure. Where does he live now?”

 “Not far, just over the hill in Clutton. He has his own second hand book store. I imagine it was fate.”

 “That would account for the amount of books he brought then. He really has lived up to his name. Good for him, I say.”

 “Yes I suppose you are right there. Well thank you Muriel. I shall enjoy these novels, helps pass the night hours, I don’t sleep like I used to, you know.”

I watch Miss. Tooms thread her way towards the tea tent. Another polite cough makes me turn. There he stands again with his umbrella and hat clutched to his chest.

“I want to apologize for being a bit brisk with you earlier. I tend to get very tense when buying books. Always worry someone else will find that exceptional book before me. Anyway sorry again for my rudeness.”

“Well thank you. Apology accepted. Miss Tooms was just telling me you have your own book store. May I visit one day?”

“Certainly it would be a pleasure.”

Such was my introduction to Samuel Boekenworm, my future employer.

Booksellers Library

Genres of Literature – Meta-Fiction


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Metafiction is a form of literature  where the author deliberately emphasizes its  constructiveness that continually reminds the reader to be aware that he or she is reading or viewing a fictional work as the author self-consciously alludes to the artificiality or literariness of a work by parodying or departing from novelistic conventions and traditional narrative techniques.

Metafiction is  commonly associated with postmodern literature, however it can be traced back to much earlier works,  such as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1387) Miguel de Cevantes’ Don Quixote (1605) and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. (1954-1955. It became prominent in the 1960’s with such tales as John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49.

There are four variations:

Explicit/Implicit metafiction is identified by its use of clear metaficiton elements within the text quoting its own artificiality. For example, the narrator explains the story they are telling.
With Implicit metafiction rather than commenting on the text, it foregrounds the medium or its status as an artifact through various, such as disruptive techniques like metalepsis. Relying on the reader’s ability to recognize these devices to evoke a metafictional reading. Implicit metafiction is described as a mode of showing.

Direct/Indirect metafiction in contrast consists of metareferences external to it’s text, such as reflections/parodies and general discussions of aesthetic issues on specific other literary works or genres. 

Critical/Non-critical metafiction is more frequently found in postmodernist fiction aiming to find the artificiality or fictionality of a text in some critical way. However, non-critical metafiction does not criticize or undermine the artificiality or fictionality of a text and can be used to “suggest that the story one is reading is authentic”.

Generally media-centered/truth- or fiction-centered metafiction deals with the medial quality of fiction or narrative but in some cases there is an additional focus on the truthfulness or inventiveness of a text, which merits mention as a specific form. The suggestion of a story being authentic would be an example of truth-centered metafiction.

Were you aware that the great tomes above were metafiction?

Have you written this genre? Care to share?  

 

Genres of Literature – Fan-fiction


 

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The definition of fan fiction or fanfiction is stories created by fans of original works of fiction rather than the original creator. Since the advent of the Internet it has become a popular form of fan labor. It is not commissioned or usually authorized by the original work’s creator or publisher, and is rarely professionally published but rather qualifies under ‘fair use’. Attitudes differ by the original authors and copyright owners of these original works to fan fiction ranging from indifference to encouragement to rejection. Copyright owners have occasionally responded with legal action.The term “fan fiction” came into use in the 20th century. 

Fan fiction is both related to its subject’s canonical fictional universe and simultaneously existing outside it. Most fan fiction writers work is  primarily read by other fans, such as Spockanalia (1967) based on Star Trek, which was mailed to other fans or sold at science fiction conventions. It is interesting to know that women dominated fan fiction initially in 1970 by 83% and increasing to 905 in 1973. Due to the accessibility of the Internet it is estimated fab fiction comprises one third of all content in regards to books. In 1998 the site Fanfiction.Net came online allowing anyone to upload any fandome content onto it’s not-for-profit platform. This practice came to be known as ‘pulling-to-publish’. In 2013 Amazon.com established Kindle Worlds enabling certain licensed media properties to be sold in their kindle store. The terms included 35% of net sales for 10,000 word plus or 20% for short fiction from 5,000 – 10,000 words but with restrictions on content, copyright and poor formatting.

 

Around 1960-1970 in Japan dōjinshi began appearing where independently published manga and novels, (known as dōjinshi), were frequently published by dōjin circles. Many were based on existing manga, anime, and video game franchises. 

Today there are a multitude of fan fiction internet sites for all sorts of genres from comic heroes to romantic couples to TV shows. It is a growing ‘genre’ and a vehicle for many authors to showcase their work.

Have you written fan fiction? 

What or who was your subject?

Why did you decide to write fan fiction?

Genres of Literature – A Tall Tale


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We all tell the occasional tall tale and know of the old fisherman stories of the ‘big one that got away’ these are mainly verbal tales or stories told around a campfire or to impress our friends and family.

The definition of a tall tale is a story containing unbelievable elements, related as though they are true and factual. These exaggerations of actual events, are mainly told ‘tongue in cheek’ and cause amusement for the listeners. Other tall tales are completely fictional tales set in a familiar setting, such as the European countryside, the American frontier, or the Canadian Northwest. The line between legends and tall tales is distinguished primarily by age; legends exaggerate the exploits of their heroes, but tall tales exaggerate an event to such an extent it becomes the focus of the story.

American tall tales

Tall tales are a fundamental element of American folk literature. The origins were seen in bragging contests by rough men of the frontier lands when they gathered together. Characters include, Davy Crockett, Pecos Bill, Casey Jones, Old Stormalong and Sally Ann Thunder – Ann Whirlwind.

 

Toastmasters International public speaking clubs do sometimes hold Tall Tales contests. Each speaker is given three to five minutes in which to tell a tall tale and is then judged according to several factors. The winner proceeds to the next level of competition.

Australian tall tales

The Australian frontier (known as the bush or the outback) has similar tales of the characters who lived mainly in isolation. The Australian versions concern a mythical station called  The Speewah and the characters who lived there, such as Big Bill, Crooked Mike and folklore hero, Charlie McKeahnie.

Canadian tall tales

The Canadian frontier has also inspired tall tales, such as Big Joe Mufferaw, Johnny Chinook and Sam McGee.

European tall tales

One enduring tall tale concerns the columnar basalt that makes up the Giant’s Causeway, which is said to have been made by Fionn mac Cumhaill. Other tales include Toell the Great, the Babin Republic, and Baron Munchausen.

 

Have you incorporated a tall tale into a story or novel?

Which tall tale is passed down through your family?

Author Interview – Shawn Bird


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1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Generally, it’s an energizer while I’m writing; however, when plot problems or new ideas keep me up all night when I need to be teaching in my high school class room bright and early, it can lead to exhaustion! When I can write all night, during summer and holidays I’m in a constant state of creative euphoria

2. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Yes. I think if I decide to do something with that Romance manuscript in my drawer I would publish under a pseudonym to establish a separate audience for that genre.

3. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

From regular attendance at Surrey International Writing Conference (SiWC), I have developed a wide social network of writers. I probably interact the most with Carol Mason, Eileen Cook, CC Humphreys, Tyner Gillies, Sylvia Taylor, and Diana Gabaldon. From workshops, blue pencils, social time at events, and then continued social media or email contact through the years, I’ve benefitted from the experiences they share and the feedback they give. Diana in particular, has helped with a historical novel I’ve been working on and been very encouraging of other projects, including providing a cover blurb for Murdering Mr Edwards. When someone who’s sold millions of books is willing to put her name behind your project, it’s a profound gift.

I’m presently doing a mentorship with Giller nominated , local author Gail Anderson-Dargatz on a literary novel project.   There is so much to learn, and it’s wonderful to know people who are willing to share their knowledge.

When you become a regular at a conference, you have a built in support network. I love presenting at conferences, too, which is great way to give back. I’ve enjoyed meeting beginning writers and helping then bring their projects to life. At SiWC I also met Leena Niemela who’s an awesome Finnish Canadian poet. I’ve stayed at her place on Vancouver Island to play in poetry together. It’s wonderful to have friends who understand about the voices in your head.

Dreams

4. Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I seem to be writing many distinct things at this point. I have published poetry books; Grace Awakening is an urban fantasy YA novel (modern romance and Greek mythology), and the most recent project, Murdering Mr. Edwards, is a series of a short stories that became a ‘noir-vella’. I’ve got drafts of two more books in the Grace Awakening series, but lots of other projects, too. I suppose if something really took off, I’d turn my focus to that genre, but at the moment I just write what I’m in the mood to write at the time. I read a lot of different genres, so it’s not a surprise I write several, too. That said, I love Charles de Lint’s books that are set in Newford, with assorted characters that wander into each other’s stories. That’d be fun to do someday. I could send some of the teachers in Grace Awakening to teach at Canterbury High, perhaps they’ll want to murder Mr. Edwards, too…

Dreams & Power

5. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

The money I spend each year to attend writing conferences is an annual expenditure of around $4000, but I think it’s well worth it. I’ve been signed by an agent and two publishers as a result of pitches at conferences. I learned how to pitch at conferences. I network with others at conferences. They are worth the investment. You get the tools, the tips, and the encouragement at conferences. You get out of the slush pile and meet the people you need to impress face to face. I try each year to attend Word on the Lake Writers’ Conference in Salmon Arm, BC; When Word’s Collide in Calgary, AB; and SiWC in Surrey, BC. Usually I manage at least two of the three. Last summer I attended a fantastically inspiring poetry retreat with Patrick Lane on Vancouver Island. There is so much to learn from these masters.

6. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I remember the laughter of the grade 3 class audience when I read stories or put on puppet shows I’d written for Show and Tell. I guess that means I can blame all of this on Mrs. Thompson.

Power

7. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

I’m a chickadee.  

8. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Hmm. Half a dozen or so novels done or in progress, three completed novellas, and a dozen or more completed short stories. Hundreds of poems are published on the blog, but there are more in the computer, I don’t know which are which any more.

2011

9. What does literary success look like to you?

People laughing in an audience when I read my work. People writing or stopping me in the street or in the grocery line to tell me they’d read and enjoyed my books. I love it when that happens. I’m so honored that strangers will take the time to comment.

10. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Depends on the project, of course. Usually I just write, and if there’s something I need to check, I look it up later, rather than interrupting the flow. Chris Humphreys and Diana Gabaldon have both cautioned about the research rabbit holes. It’s so easy to get lost in fascinating stuff, and forget there’s a story to be telling. I do some general reading on the topic, perhaps, but then I dive right in. There’s an exception to that. I have a historical piece that is on hiatus. I own translations of 600 year old texts and 300 year old volumes. I am not quite ready to pull it all together. I want to go to France where the events took place and immerse myself. I visited a few years ago, but that was only enough to tell me that exploring the museum and chatting with the curator was not enough…

11. How many hours a day/week do you write?

On various projects (including editing and promotional tasks, educational and curriculum writing, blog, poetry, and whatever novel project has my attention at the time), somewhere around twenty to twenty-five hours a week. More in the summer. When I don’t have to be in my class room at 9 a.m., I write all night and go to bed at 4 or 5 a.m.

12. How do you select the names of your characters?

Sometimes baby name books, sometimes I use the name of students (with their permission, of course), sometimes they just introduce themselves with names in place, and I have no idea where they’ve come from.

13. What was your hardest scene to write?

I did a lot of weeping when I was writing a scene on a logging road about Josh and a Sasquatch in Grace Awakening Power. But apparently readers do a lot of weeping there, too, so that was a good emotional investment.

14. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

I don’t think about it. I’m writing what I’m writing when I’m writing. I don’t have anyone telling me what to do with my projects, so I just do what speaks to me at any given time. Of course, Coffin Hop has been a priority this fall. If they’ve sent edits or whatever, everything else stopped while I dealt with Murdering Mr. Edwards. That’s been a fun, and completely unexpected project.

For me the harder balance might have been sorting out teaching life and writing life. I’ve decided to blur the boundaries a bit by sharing my work and experiences with my students. Lots of them would like to be writers, all of them need to know how to write something. Lots of advice applies to both situations: “You can’t edit a blank page.” “First drafts don’t have to be good, they just have to be written.” I show them manuscripts covered with editor marks so they know it’s normal to have to re-write, edit, and polish repeatedly! So many scribble something on the page and think it’s perfect. None of us is perfect the first time!

15. How long have you been writing?

I won my first writing prize at age 9, and received my first rejection letter at age 10. Both for poetry. I paid for my husband’s wedding ring with short story prize money. Then I was busy with university and only did non-fiction writing for about twenty years while I raised kids. The month after the kids moved out, Grace awakened.

16. What inspires you?  

Almost everything. There are stories EVERYWHERE.

17. How do you find or make time to write?

I sit in the chair and I write. I write in the evening after dinner. I write while watching TV (if I’m not knitting). At this precise moment, I’m sitting in the tub, typing this on a waterproof keyboard. (I think about a quarter of Grace was written in the bathtub). Like Nike, I just do it.

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18. What projects are you working on at the present?

I’m promoting Murdering Mr. Edwards. It’s a noir-vella that’s a collection of 12 tales. The same annoying English teacher is murdered in each story. The literary novel I’m mentoring with Gail Anderson-Dargatz explores the relationship of a couple dealing with his mental illness. I’ve got some short stories brewing for contest season. I am trying to get back to daily poetry on my blog. I’m compiling a curriculum guide for teaching poetry. I compiling a collection of non-sectarian invocations for Rotary Clubs. I keep lots of stuff on the go all the time; that’s one of Diana’s recommendations for avoiding writers’ block. It works for me.

19. What do your plans for future projects include?

Finishing a few unfinished projects, editing a few completed projects, touring around telling people about Murdering Mr Edwards

20. Share a link to your author website.

www.shawnbird.com   Twitter and Instagram @ShawnLBird (I share a lot of shoes on Instagram. My shoe collection is infamous).

Bio:

Shawn Bird is a high school English teacher, an author, and a poet in the beautiful Shuswap region of British Columbia.  After 2 years as a graduate student in the Faculty of Education at University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus Shawn can no longer say she’s a  “jack of all trades master of none” ’cause she’s wielding a certificate that proclaims she’s a Master of Education! 🙂