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Estelle Chisolm

    13 Reasons Why…and Why I like the Book over the Netflix Series

    Before I get into this, no, I haven’t watched all thirteen episodes of the Netflix series. I’m only on episode three. For those of you who have seen it then you know what I meant to say was I’m on Tape 2, Side A. I heard about this show for some time now and I wanted to watch it but put it off for two reasons. One, I wanted to watch other things and two I wanted to read the book first. I wonder how many people know that this series, this series that has been tweeted so much in 2017 comes from a book. The more you know, am I right?

    Anyway, I got the book on audio because that’s how I can get through my work day, by listening to books and I loved what I was listening to. The narration, how everything flowed. It was a great listen and I’m sure if I had a hard copy it would be a great read. The book more than anything didn’t glorify suicide as some people are saying but to me it highlighted the fact that we need to be aware of the signs around us. Hannah Baker showed signs that she was in trouble. That’s what the book was about for me. Yes, she committed suicide (not ruining anything. You find that out early on for those who want to be surprised) but she didn’t have to if things didn’t ‘snowball’ out of control. 

    Since I finished the book it was time to start watching the series so I started and right away I started yelling at the television. Why? Because it wasn’t like the book. Now, I am not a noob. I know that television and movies have liberty and they have to change things up. I expect that. I’ve seen many book to tv/movies so I know what needs to be done. I guess I just didn’t expect so much of it to be different in this case. 

    The series does look like it strongly takes its material from the book which is good but then it starts to drift in the direction they want to go and I’m just end up screaming “No, why. We don’t need that right now.” Case in point (and if you haven’t seen the series skip past this part right now. I’m about to spoil) when Clay is in the park and Tony pulls up and tells Clay that he is almost ready for side two I just blinked. If you have read the book then you know Tony and Clay do not have the interaction about the tape or even the cassette player that Clay stole until they are at the little diner. 

    I get it. Have to make it interesting. Have to stretch it all out because as I read today there is going to be a season two of this series. I can only wonder what that season will be about besides just exploring the feelings of the people who are on the tape, as if they aren’t doing that now. Showing us what they are thinking, showing us that they sit in pool houses getting high. 

    So now the question is will I finish the series. Can I finish it? I can and I will but not to find out what happened to Hannah. How these people affected her. I read the book. I loved the book. I know what happens. I am going to watch it to see how much they changed. How much they altered to make each episode 57 minutes long. 

    Watching all these changes makes me happy I read the book because I can see the story for how it was supposed to be told. How the author envisioned his work. I can applaud his thought process. I only wish other’s can reveal in it as I did. To see the meaning behind the obvious. 

    Well, I have that out of my system. I guess it’s time to press play. Tape 2…side A. 

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    The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl: By @IssaRae

    Recently I received an email from Audibles letting me know that I had six credits so far and I had to use one soon before a new one could be added to my ever growing collection. So off I went in search of an audio book that I could listen to while I’m shuffling folders and papers around my desk for eight hours. As I scrolled through the list of books I saw a familiar cover. 

    At the end of March I attended Wondercon and was fortunate to be at a panel that discussed books, the writing process, authors, etc. On the screen was a list of books including The Misadventure of Awkward Black Girl. When I saw this book listed in audible I had to check it out.

    I must say from the first few pages I knew I was going to fall in love with this book. Right off the bat, Jo-Issa “Issa” Rae Diop talks about people who could not pronounce her name properly. Immediately I laughed aloud. I have an old school first name and my last name is Chisolm, similar to the famous Shirley Chisholm. Clearly, you can see the difference there. My last name is spelled with one H but I’ve seen it spelt with two H’s just like Shirley’s. I say this to say that many times people have actually corrected me on the spelling of my own name. As if I am purposely leaving the extra H off. Issa went through the same trials and it felt good to know I wasn’t alone there. 

    The pace of the story is very well written. It goes through her life but the areas that I enjoyed the most was chapters that gave readers advice. Things like blacks and asians and why aren’t there more couple’s out there with these two races,  the difference between being awkward and nerdy or how about co workers. Knowing different types of coworkers. That made me laugh aloud and as I listened to the list of different coworkers I found myself scanning the office looking for those particular individuals. 

    Hearing her speak (Yes, Issa-Rae narrates this novel on Audible) about the different artists of the 90’s, the different albums. Made, 112, Brandy, Mya. All of the nostalgia is ripe of the picking as you go through Issa’s life. Simple things like tape decks, cd players and buying 12 cd’s for a penny. You will immediately remember growing up and going through the exact same pace as Issa. 

    My own past aside, this is a wonderful debut biography that provides readers with an understanding of what it means to grow up and not know what you want to be or where you’re going to go. You start off going through the motion and eventually you may continue to go through the motion until you stop on something that makes you happy to get up in the morning. It may take a hard event to bring you to your goal, as it did with Issa, or it may come naturally but in the end you should trust yourself and follow your dreams. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is a must read for laughs, strength and purpose. 

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    Half way there in #Nanowrimo (Q&A)

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    There is a link over at Beautiful books for writers who, like myself, are participating in Nanowrimo. I’ve seen a couple of blogs answer the questions on their site so I decided to give it a go. Today, I made it to the halfway mark with Nanowrimo 2016 on my woman’s fiction novel  so I feel it’s fitting to answer the questions now rather than later so here we go.

    Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?

    My mental state is amazing right now. Today I sat down for four hours and knocked out over 8,000 words to get myself to the 25,000 half way point. It’s no easy feat at all so I am proud of my accomplishment. At the same time I want to make sure that I do not get overly excited because there are still 25,000 words to go so once today is over I need to clear my mind and continue to push forward if I want to win this year’s Nanowrimo. As far as how my novel is going, I am thinking of the novel more and more and already seeing how I want to end it and possibly turn it into a series but only time will tell. My novel is doing well. Prior to writing today I was able to write an entire chapter from scratch. I am a planner true and true but I can pants from time to time so having a combination can only improve my novel from here on out. 

    What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?

    “So, um, do I just talk into this?” 

    Aubree sat on a thin stool in front of a large microphone atop a smooth oval table with a mic boom and microphone clamped in place. She gently brushed her slender manicured nails against the boom, jumping when the static interference deafened what was once a quiet room. 

    “Be careful. We’re still adjusting the frequency levels. Just relax. Is this your first podcast?” When Aubree tossed her head and gave a gentle tug at her sleeve, the host broke into a wide open smile. “No need to be nervous. I’ll make sure it’s interesting for you and my fans.” 

    Who’s your current favorite character in your novel?

    That would have to be my main character, Aubree. Aubree has not had the best of luck, especially at the start of her story. As she transitions from that point in her life with family and people she meets along the way she realizes:

    1. Where you want to be is not necessary where you should be;

     2. Everything you see is not always as it seems and;

    3. To Live and Let Live

    What do you love about your novel so far?

    I love the way the story is coming together. My main character started off at such a low point and has grown from then to now. Right now she’s riding a high and I love riding it with her because she has struggled and she will continue to struggle but she at least has something she is enjoying to fall back on…at least for now. 

    Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?

    I don’t think I have made any hilarious typos or mistakes. Probably a couple of spelling mistakes but that’s the name of the game when you’re pushing forward and refusing to go backwards to edit. 

    What is your favorite to write: beginning, middle, or end – and why?

    Definitely the middle. The reason I like the middle so much is because at this point you kind of know where you’ve been and where you want to be. Even if you do not know how the story will start you know you have to get to the middle that you love so much so now you have to set a path to your middle then set a path to the end. 

    What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best?

    My writing habits are pretty standard. I cannot write at home. Between a cat that craves attention and a television that I love to watch I struggle to tune it all out so I always head out. Starbucks is my staple place to visit because I have one close by. I find a table, order a coffee (and possibly a snack) and get to work. I love working to music. I have a few playlists that I use to get myself in the mood. The best time of day to write for me is early in the morning before going to work and after work. I also do best on the weekends. 

    How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?

    I’d say I’m somewhere in the middle. I do write alone but I write alone because I do not have anyone else in my circle who write. That is why I love going to writing conferences to meet other people who share the same passion and enjoy writing and reading novels. I try to discuss my novel with those closest to me but they often appear sick of hearing about my writing process but they have expressed that they love my style of writing so that’s a plus. 

    What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?

    Writing to me is hard when you don’t know where to begin. We all have a story we want to tell but for one reason or another we throw up a reason why we can’t do it or why it’s so hard.  No one is going to tell my story for me. I have to get my own ideas out and that is what keeps me writing. 

    What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?

    1. Write what interests you. Write for you, not for anyone else. 

    2. A few words today can turn into a novel tomorrow. Don’t ever give up on yourself or your creativity 

    3. Love what you do even if no one else does. If you love your story and your characters then express it on the page. 

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    Second Person? Wait, who uses that?

     

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    Two weeks ago, when I attended the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, I sat on a panel where a speaker was reading from his up and coming book. I was excited. I love moments where authors can come and read a few lines of their work to give an idea of a point they want to make. Anyone can talk about anything but if you have nothing to back it up, i.e. proof, your words tend to fall to the waste-side. Anyway, he starts reading from his book and subconsciously I’m ready to hear the pronouns he, she, they. Ignorant of me, I’m sure, but at the same time I also knew that I could also hear I and me as well. Third or first person, either one I was certain I was about to hear.

    You, Your, Yours

    I was suddenly the protagonist. For a second my mind paused. You? What is that? But just as quickly as I pondered what I was hearing, it clicked. This was second person. The author decided to write his novel in second person. 

    My initial reaction was that of surprise. When I first started writing, back when I lived, slept and breathed fan-fiction, I had a friend who defied the odds and wrote in second person. He was very good at it. Other than that I can count on one hand the number of books I have read in my lifetime that use the second person motif. I doubt I’d even use one finger to calculate the total number. 

    My second reaction was a question, internally of course, wondering who uses second POV. Majority of the time people use third and their are those who use first. Again, back to my fan-fiction days, I used to write in first and I would have people come, review and say that they hated reading any stories in first position. I always figured it is a person’s preference what they like and don’t like to read but now that I am on a different platform of expressing my creativity I often look back at that and wonder how that’s possible. That’s an idea for a different post. 

    Second person is not widely known like its popular counterparts and with third point of view garnering different avenues of its own, second continues to get further and further behind the curve. Despite it dipping in the popularity contest, there authors out there with books written in second position such as: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney and Booked by Kwame Alexander (who spoke at this years Writer’s Digest Annual Conference) 

    A simple search on Google or on Goodreads can give even the most curious writer a sense of what second person is all about. 

    Listening to the passage he read, it made me appreciate this point of view a lot because he didn’t fall into the traps that most people probably would using this point of view. Starting each line with the word ‘You’ could grow old very fast but if you can incorporate it (see what I did there) into your writing then you will have readers call in love with your style of story telling. 

     I have never personally used this point of writing but that’s not to say that I wouldn’t want to try it out. The challenge of the second-person is to get into the reader’s thoughts without forcing said thoughts. It should have a natural feel. The last thing you want to do is pull your reader out of the story. 

    If you are interested in writing second person and don’t know where to start then my suggestion to you is to read works that use this as their way of story telling. Yes, I’m sure there are how to books on the market for this exact purpose, but I feel none of them would be able to give you a complete understanding of the best way to use second person. If interested, the two books listed above can give you an idea of how second person is used and there are plenty more out there.

    Have you ever read a book written in second person? Have you written in second person? Let me know in the comments below. 

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    diy MFA – Knowledge without going to College!

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    Get the knowledge without going to college!

    If I were still in school going for a MFA degree then I’d consider this book to be my student handbook

    Recently, as of May 2016, I graduated with my Master’s Degree in Accounting and Finance. A huge accomplishment and solidified even further when the diploma showed up on my doorstep. It put everything in perspective but at the same time I made me crave continuing education even further. A doctorate? Maybe one day. 

    No, this time I was considering what I love to do more than look at spreadsheets and numbers. I wanted a degree in writing. Having never had one before, always going down the business track of life since I ventured into college years ago, I knew I couldn’t just jump into getting a MFA degree. 

    A Master of Fine Arts degree is what you need to be a writer. I’ve heard that a few times and I will admit, I sat around wondering the same thing. Is this really needed? Surely writers at least have a degree in Creative Writing, right? That is a start toward a MFA degree. But is it needed to become a published author? Well, this book will tell you that it is not and goes into great detail to prove its point. 

    Written by Gabriela Pereira, with a foreword by Jacquelyn Mitchard, diy (do it yourself ) MFA (Master of Fine Arts) explores the writer’s option to perfect their craft within 288 pages of information that proves that a MFA degree is nice to have but not necessary. 

    With so many how to do books on the market from how to write suspense (review on that coming later), using POV, character development etc, it’s easy to say that the author is correct. Why would you need to go through getting a MFA degree when there are so many books on the market that is just as good as racking up tuition fees.

    diy MFA gives you a little bit of everything from creating compelling characters, bringing said characters to life, choosing the right POV and even how to generate ideas on demand. Having never gone the route of a MFA I can say it is refreshing to get an idea of what it would be like if I ever decided to go down that road.

    However, can I say that this book can replace anyone’s idea of getting a MFA? Well, no, I can’t do that. Why? If you want to go for your MFA degree then no amount of words that I say (or type) will change your mind. Some people will want the experience, learning from someone in the front of a classroom and having that interaction that a book just cannot provide. To you who feel this way then I applaud your reserve and wish you the best in your education. diy MFA even explores this in the second chapter of the book with myths that people believe about a degree in MFA. Such myth’s such as: 

    1. You need an MFA to Teach Writing
    2. The MFA is a shortcut to Getting Published
    3. An MFA Program will force you to make writing a priority

    Without you having read (or maybe you have) the book, I can tell you the simple answer to all three of these myths is an outstanding no. However, the book goes into further detail and I would suggest you read it if you feel the answer should be yes for one or more of the above. I can tell you honestly for myself I was on board with #3 as being true. How I saw it was I’m paying money for this degree so it’s going to make me use it and make me sit down for hours on end (when I’m not doing my full-time job) and write, write, write. The book answers this by saying “If you can find time to write only by putting your life on hold and plunging into a graduate program, then your writing career isn’t going to last very long.” Now, I never figured I would put my life on hiatus but the author has a point. I am going to go 2 + years for a degree in the hopes it makes me focus more and write? Can’t I do that now? Train myself to do that now without a degree? Yes, yes I can. 

    I am still in the middle of completing this book so I cannot give a full review, and I’m not going to. What I want to do is review this book by chapters that inspire me and in the long run will help me improve my writing.

    I obtained this book while attending the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference and it was, and continues to be, a great piece that I purchased that weekend. In no way will I say that this will completely take away the idea of going for a degree in writing. I’d be lying if I said that, however, it sure has silenced the thought for the time being. I look forward to moving forward and learning more in the weeks to come.

    If you’d like to purchase this book, learn more about it or the author then click the image above and go directly to the website dedicated to diy MFA. 

    Have you purchased diy MFA? What did you think? Would you purchase this book if you haven’t? Do you feel a person does/doesn’t need a MFA to become a good writer? Let me know in the comments below. 

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    Short Stories – What are they?

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    I personally have never written a short story. I have read only a handful of them, mostly sticking to longer bits of fiction. However, I wanted to understand short stories and what makes them so engaging for both writer’s and readers so I opted to attend ‘Nailing the Spike: Creating a Compelling Short Story’ panel at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference Friday panel.

    According to the panel, a short story is successful because it differs from a standard novel as a sprint vs a marathon. A sprint is a quick race to the finish and that’s what a short novel is. As soon as you start the novel you are quickly at the end with information in the middle to tie the two together, whereas a novel stretches out like a marathon and can go on for days and days, or in this case pages and pages. 

    A short story is defined as fictional narrative between 2,000-10,000 words. Unlike a novel, it deals with a single episode whereas a novel can deal with multiple avenues that can pull a reader in multiple directions. Short stories differ from other versions of writing such as novels, as I’ve stated, and novellas in this manner. 

    The concept for a short story can come from anything such as your personal experiences, things you see on a daily commute or something that was told to you. It can resonate from anywhere and when put to paper can explore the who, what, when, where and why of your eventual story. 

    You want to make sure you have a setting that can be familiar to those reading as a short story does not have extended chapters to grab the reader so you have to make sure you get the reader attention immediately. How’s the weather? How’s the social atmosphere? These are things you may want to incorporate in your short story. 

    Just as important as setting is your characters. One of the biggest hitches of any story, short or otherwise, is if the characters are believable. Readers want characters that make sense, unless you are writing fantasy where you can have a little edge with going off the track. If your story is in a different genre then you should make sure that whoever the protagonist is they can relate to the reader. 

    Now that your character is relatable, who is telling the story. POV is one of the most difficult choices that any author can make and in a short story that difficulty remains. Which ever POV you choose, make sure you follow through with it until the end. 

    You also want to make sure you have a good conflict. Since a short story is essentially a beginning, middle and end in a shorter value than a novel, you want to make sure you show the conflict, whatever it may be. The conflict can be internal (psychological) or external (character v character). As essential as that is, do not forget the plot, especially the introduction because it shows where the story begins. It sets everything up. This is followed by the conflict, rising action, climax and finally, the resolution. 

    For readers who read short stories, they want you to tell them who the person is, what is happening and where is it happening. You need to give the reader a reason to care about your character and the story you are trying to tell. Give the reader a surprise or two, they will appreciate it and leave something behind so that they are willing and able to read your next short story work. 

    Have you written a short story? What is your favorite short story? Let me know in the comments below. 

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    Networking 101

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    For an introvert writer, one of the biggest fears is meeting others. For an author your closest friends are most likely your characters. They are the individuals who depend on you to get them from the beginning of the story to the end (or close to the end if you end up ending their lives mid-story)

    However, as a writer the thing that is feared is the one thing necessary if you want to get far in a writing career.

    Currently at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference has provided me with a view of why having a network is pertinent to a writing career.

    1. Networking is about building connections that may not pay off now but could in the future.

    My take: Who you meet today can help you in the future. That person who randomly asks you what genre you write could be someone looking to publish or knows someone who wants to publish that same genre. 

    2. Prepare answers to popular one-liners.

    My take: If you can answer the questions “What do you write? What are you working on? Why are you here?” then it can be the beginning of a conversation that could lead to other ventures. What kind of venture? See #1 above. 

    3. Share your name and where you are from during the conversation

    My take: This has personally helped me. Last year at this same conference I met a group of people, one of which lived in California just like I did. Since then she and I have talked about publishing, options and our future works. You never know if the person you’re talking to is where you’re from unless you ask or bring it up yourself. Be the leader. 

    4. Networking goes beyond the conference

    My take: The Writer’s Digest Annual Conference runs from August 12th – August 14th. Three days is not enough time to truly get to know someone. Sure, you will jot down the names of everyone you talk to, exchange business cards, Twitter handles, Facebook names etc but what then? What happens Sunday afternoon? You board a plane and head home. Then what? You continue to Network, that’s what! Networking doesn’t have to just be within the three days of the conference. Keep the conversation going. Writer’s should want to talk to people who were not created in their imaginations but love to create. With so many channels at our exposure we should be able to keep the conversation going long after the conference door closes. 

    What do you think of the Networking tips above? Do you have any to recommend? Leave them in the comments below. 

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