Unlock the Muse – July 23, 2019

The final week of Camp NaNoWriMo is here. Ready or not, the deadline is within sight. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to set aside extraneous distractions. Turn off Netflix and Twitter. Put aside your recreational reading. That puzzle in the front room? Finish it immediately and move on! Whatever it is that’s holding you back, put it away for now and look ahead only toward your goal. Plan for yourself a reward once the goal is achieved.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

We dare you! Imagine your perfect writing job (other than freelancing). An editor at Simon & Schuster? Staff writer for Sports Illustrated? Write down four reasons why you would be perfect for the job. Then send the letter to the company’s editor or human resources department. The worst they can do is ignore it.

Dare to dream big! Whether or not you actually send the letter, it’s never a bad idea to examine what your goals really are, and why you are pursuing them.

It’s play week, and even with that looming deadline, there’s always room for a little creative play time. Here’s a roll of the Rory’s Story Cubes to inspire some fun in your work-in-progress.


Happy writing!


Unlock the Muse – July 16, 2019

How can July be half over already? The Camp NaNoWriMo deadline looms ever closer, spurring me forward toward my goal. I’m still lagging behind, but doggedly pressing on.

In light of this looming deadline, I thought I’d take a look at what others have to say about deadlines. This article by Jeremy Miller talks about the power of deadlines. He describes a deadline as an incredible tool for harnessing energy and achieving results.

Another article by Andreea Clair lists a few reasons deadlines are a good thing. Reasons such as better prioritization, improved productivity and increased efficiency.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write a letter to yourself when you were 10. Tell this young you what you wish you had known or understood them.

Life doesn’t really give us do-overs, but if it did, wouldn’t it be nice to be armed ahead of time with the information that help us reach our goals without hitting so many roadblocks? Oh, and you’ve got a week. Go!

1. The latest time or date by which something should be completed.
2. Historical: A line drawn around a prison beyond which prisoners were liable to be shot.

The word deadline comes from around 1920, the American English newspaper jargon meaning “time limit.” It is perhaps influenced by an earlier use of the word (1864) to mean the “do-not-cross” line in Civil War prisons, which figured in the trial of Henry Wirz, commander of the notorious Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia.

For more on the story of Henry Wirz and the history of the word deadline, check out this interesting article by Paul Anthony Jones.

Happy writing!

Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh: A Review

I chose to read Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh for Popsugar’s 2019 Reading Challenge prompt #28, a book recommended by a celebrity I admire. At first, I was put off by this prompt. I’m not one who gets overly excited by fame and celebrity. There are famous people I like well enough, certainly some historical figures I could say that I admire. No one really came to mind, however, as someone I wanted to find out their book recommendations.

Then I thought about authors I admire, and I decided they qualified as celebrities. I decided on Kate DiCamillo, an author of children’s books who seems to always have something positive to share. On Kate’s recommended reading list I found the book Harriet the Spy, and was instantly sold on this book about a girl who wants to become a writer.

In this book, Harriet, a self-proclaimed spy, carries around a notebook everywhere she goes. She writes in this notebook her various observations and opinions of all the people around her. Besides her classmates and her family, she actively follows some neighborhood people and writes about them as well. She goes so far as to sneak into a dumb waiter to spy on one such neighbor.

Her observations get her into trouble when one of her classmates gets a hold of her notebook and reads aloud all the unkind things she’s had to say about everyone, including her two best friends. Harriet ends up restricted from her notebook, and is ostracized by everyone around her. After many misadventures, Harriet ultimately learns to apologize to those she’s hurt and to temper her unkind words.

I enjoyed this book a great deal. It was funny and Harriet has an admirable adventurous spirit. I was disappointed a bit, however, when Harriet is given a chance to be the editor of the sixth grade news page, she only continues more of her unkind thoughts, writing now about the neighborhood folks rather than her peers, as if this makes it somehow okay. I would have liked to see her change a bit more in this respect after her unhappy lessons learned from her peers.

Overall, a great read. One I’d recommend for anyone who’s ever been too curious for their own good, or those who wish they’d been just a little more adventurous.

Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue: A Review

The 2019 ATY Reading Challenge prompt #36 is a book featured on the NPR Best Books of the Year list. Since my goal for the year was to read as many books I already own as possible, I went hunting through the NPR Best Books lists to see if I could find one that I own. I found Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue on the 2016 list. I had heard enough good reviews on this book, and been intrigued enough by it, that I picked it up when I ran across a good deal on the ebook.

Behold the Dreamers is the story of two families in pursuit of the American Dream. One is Jende Jonga and his wife Neni, Cameroonian immigrants living in Harlem. The other family is that of Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers.

It is a step up for Jende when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Mr. Edwards. In fact, their situation seems to be changing only for the better. They have hope also, that their immigrant status will improve. Jende and his wife feel they have at last gained a foothold in America and dare to imagine a brighter future.

However, as the recession of 2008 brings down many financial giants – Lehman Brothers included – Jende’s future is now hopelessly dependent on that of Clark’s. As Clark’s world unravels, Jende’s hopes disintegrate as well. Jende and his wife find themselves faced with the terrible decision of whether to return to their home country of Cameroon.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. To be honest, I was bothered by the actions the characters were willing to carry out in pursuit of their dreams – both the desperate immigrant on the edge of poverty and the wealthy elite. The book is written well enough, I just found I couldn’t relate much to anyone in the story.

Unlock the Muse – July 9, 2019

It’s week two of July as well as Camp NaNoWriMo. The writing has started out pretty slow for me. I’m still plugging away at my goal, but I’ve fallen rather badly behind. It’s good that I have that end of the month deadline looming to keep me motivated.

Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo? Are you up against a deadline? I am at my most productive when facing a deadline. How about you? Does a deadline spur on your muse? Or do you rage against them?

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

List the issues, both big and small, that make you angry. Getting in touch with subjects you feel passionately about can help you decide what you need to write about.

Passions are powerful, and can make your writing even stronger. Use them to fuel your words and your energy. In this way, too, writing can be cathartic.

A final thought for you on deadlines:

Deadline Quote

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – July 2, 2019

Welcome to July!

If you’ve hung around my blog for any length of time, you’re aware I’m an avid participant in National Novel Writing Month, including the two mid-year Camp events in April and July. So, yep, it’s time once again for Camp NaNoWriMo.

There are two things I love about NaNoWriMo. First, I love the community of writers who take part in this activity. In the Camp editions, participants can opt to engage with up to 19 other Campers to commiserate with and encourage one another throughout the month.

The second thing I love about NaNoWriMo is the deadline. Yeah, that’s right. I said I love the deadline. I usually do my best work under pressure.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

An ode to Monday: Pen your feelings for the dreaded Monday in a haiku.

Do you live for Mondays? That return to the daily grind after a day or two of liberty? Or are Mondays your worst nightmare? As in there’s not enough coffee in the world that can make a Monday better?

It’s a new month, time for a new theme. This month I’ll look at the pros and cons of writing deadlines. Personally, I like a good deadline, but I’m not so good at self-imposed ones. That’s why NaNoWriMo works for me.

How do you approach a deadline?

Happy writing!

The Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer: A Review

I read Cinder, book one of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, last year as part of my “Year of the Woman” reading challenge. This year, I knew I wanted to finish some of the many series I’ve started in the last couple of years, and The Lunar Chronicles was one I managed to find places for on my 2019 Reading Challenges. Scarlet and Cress (books two and three) fit Popsugar’s prompts #11, a book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover, and #35, a book by an author whose first and last name start with the same letter. I found a place for book four, Winter, on ATY’s list with prompt #28, a book related to something cold.

These books contain brilliant retellings of popular fairy tale stories. Meyer has seamlessly put Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White into a futuristic society with cyborgs, androids, lunar colonies and bio-engineered human/wolf hybrids.

The four books contain a single story arc centered around ambitious Queen Levana of Luna who has designs on controlling both her own people as well as those of Earth. Central to her ambition is Kaito, the newly crowned Emperor of the Commonwealth on Earth.

Each of the four books adds a new element to the overall story, a new character. Each character adds their own piece to the story, without which, they could not succeed.

Meyer’s style is fun and entertaining. She combines just the right amount of intrigue and adventure with just the right amount of romance and despair. Furthermore, I took much delight in finding the tiny details she took from the original fairy tales, changing them just enough so that they fit perfectly into her own version of the stories.

I thoroughly enjoyed these books. The fairy tale aspect was a lot of fun, but even if you’re not into that, if you like young adult dystopian style fiction, I’d recommend giving this series a try.