Crib with afghan

Cradle

The cradle sat unmoved from the place where it was first brought into the house, filled with blankets, and all the unused accouterments of infants, buried now under layers of spare pillows, afghans and Grandma’s quilt. The cradle had been purchased on a whim, a chance encounter that spoke of a dream yet unfulfilled, a siren song of desire. That was years ago. Now all that remained was something to trip over, to sweep under; the cradle all but invisible under the years accumulated upon it, bereft of use, of meaning, little more than an elaborate storage box, a hope chest ruined by the realities of dead dreams and ravaged hope.

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On Narnia and Where the Wild Things Are: C. S. Lewis and the Importance of Influence and Collaboration for Writers

When I set about reviewing the book, The Magician’s Nephew, I wanted to know more about the author, C. S. Lewis. I learned some interesting facts about this prolific writer, and I thought, why not share what I’ve learned. However, when it came time to actually write up a little biography of the man, I was overcome by one thought: what could I possible share that hasn’t already been shared a hundred times? My only answer that is I can share my own thoughts on what I learned about C. S. Lewis.

There were two things that immediately jumped out at me when I started my research. The first thing I found interesting was learning whose writing influenced that of C. S. Lewis. The second was his involvement in a group of writing men from Oxford that included none other than one of my personal writing heroes, J. R. R. Tolkien.

Influence

In his early childhood, Lewis loved the books by Beatrix Potter with the talking animals that dressed in human clothes. Along with his older brother, Warren, he created a world of his own called Boxen populated with fantastic creatures, and complete with its own intricate history. These writings were published after Lewis’s death.

In his later writings, Lewis attributes his Irish heritage as one of the greatest influences on his work. His early work in particular draws heavily on Irish mythology. He discovered a liking for the work of W. B. Yeats. He wrote in a letter, “I have here discovered an author exactly after my own heart, whom I am sure you would delight in, W. B. Yeats. He writes plays and poems of rare spirit and beauty about our old Irish mythology.”

This made me think about who I would consider to be influences on my own work. If I really spent some time on this, I could come up with a large number of writers who had an impact on me as a person, and who inspired my own writing. I don’t remember much of my very young years, but a few exceptions have survived into adulthood, most notably, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. I don’t remember specific attachments to these books, but I find in them an endearing sense of wonder and adventure.

Growing into adulthood, I found among others, The Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Both of these stories feature young women who grow up to become writers, which inspired me to seek out my own voice as these women had done.

At some point I discovered fantasy novels, and while I don’t remember for sure what I read first, The Lord of Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien was certainly the most significant. Here I discovered something I hadn’t found before in books. I could create whole worlds from nothing. And this is what I wanted to do.

Collaboration

The second part of what impressed me about C. S. Lewis was his writing group, called The Inklings. This was an informal group of hugely prolific writers which included Lewis’s brother, Warren, J. R. R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams. They met together regularly, critiquing one other’s work, and inspiring and challenging each other. Lewis’s character Ransom from his science fiction series, the Space Trilogy, is believed to be based on Tolkien.

What I get from this, is writing is not a solitary endeavor. Writers, like any other human, need the social interactions of other humans, especially other writers. I know I am at my best when I have the energy of other writers to spur me on. Some of my most productive writing sessions have come during National Novel Writing Month at live write-ins when there are dozens of other writers working furiously alongside me toward the same goal.

I’ve also been involved in two writers’ groups where we’ve met together on a regular basis. Encouragement, motivation, inspiration, accountability. A significant amount of the work I’ve completed is a direct result of working alongside other writers. Writers do better together.

C. S. Lewis published more than thirty books, from fantasy and science fiction to poetry to theological apologetics. He wrote about what interested him, spurred on by the encouragement and challenges of other writers.

C. S. Lewis titles I’d like to read:

  • the Chronicles of Narnia series
  • the Space Trilogy
  • The Screwtape Letters
  • Mere Christianity

Read more about C. S. Lewis here.

The Magician’s Nephew: a Review

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I started my 2016 Reading Challenge with The Magician’s Nephew, by C. S. Lewis, which is the second book on my list as I didn’t yet have the first one, and I just couldn’t wait a moment longer. So, on a Thursday, a work day no less, I chose to begin reading the one book I was supposed to read in a day. It took me all day, reading on breaks and between fixing dinner for my children and putting them to bed, but I did read it in a day.

The Magician’s Nephew is the story of Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer. The two young children meet one cold, wet summer in London and begin a friendship that will carry them through some wild adventures. They travel to another world, encounter a wicked witch and embark on a journey that will test their new friendship.

C. S. Lewis wrote a charming, childhood tale that takes the reader on a wild, magical adventure to other worlds. The main characters, Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer are typical curious and adventurous children. Lewis portrays well the innocent, yet self-centered nature of a child as the two new friends explore, play and fight with one another. Despite the trouble they manage to find, both of their own making, and that of others, love and friendship win out in the end.

Little Digory Kirke is the true hero of this tale. Pulled from his country home and thrust into an unfamiliar and unfriendly city, Digory manages to find friendship and hold on to a childlike innocence despite the wickedness of the adults around him. Faced with choices no child should have to make, he proves that good can overcome.

Originally published in 1955 as the sixth book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Magician’s Nephew, is really a prequel, and probably not meant to be read as the first book. When the books were reprinted in 1980 by Harper Collins, they were reordered at that time to a chronological sequence. But many, perhaps most, Lewis scholars feel this was not the author’s intention. You can read the debate here and decide for yourself.

Lewis wrote from an omniscient narrator point of view. There is considerable authorial intrusion with the narrator often breaking into the story to speak directly to the reader. Some might find this too intrusive, but for the most part, I felt this gave a sort of storyteller feel to the book. For the most part. Meaning there were a couple of instances where the intrusion was a little disruptive.

Over all, I enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series. Though, I think I will go back and start with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Maybe I can talk my boys into reading it with me.

2016 Reading Challenge

I ran across this reading challenge in my news feed, and I decided I couldn’t pass it up. That it was so accommodating to my current to be read list (one that is ridiculously long!), made it all the easier to go for it. When it came down to actually choosing the books I would read for this challenge, however, it wasn’t as easy as it might have first seemed. I thought I would share my journey through this challenge, starting with what I’ve chosen to read and why I selected these particular books.

1. A book published this year – Truthwitch, by Susan Dennard (released January 5, 2016)

I first ran across this review by Aila of this new book on Twitter. I fell in love with the cover, and took a closer look. This book sounds like just the sort of story I love to read, and I’m really excited to check it out. (See my review of this book here.)

2. A book you can finish in a day – The Magician’s Nephew, by C. S. Lewis

The Narnia books have been on my TBR list for far too long. And, since I seem to be such a slow reader, I thought one of this length might be better suited for this particular challenge. I’m a mom of three who works full-time outside the home, so reading time is sadly limited. I’m going to find a weekend day I can set aside to devote to finally reading this book. Of course, this one comes with six more books to read, so it won’t really be a one day event. (See my review of this book here.)

3. A book you’ve been meaning to read – Divergent, by Veronica Roth

I’ve been wanting to read this one for awhile now. This was perhaps the hardest book to decide on, for there are a number of books I’ve been “meaning” to read. I saw the movie, even though I’d wanted to read the book first, and I enjoyed that. I’m fairly certain the book won’t disappoint. (See my review of this book here.)

4. A book recommended by your local library or bookseller – The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

I went to my recently discovered local bookseller, Escape Fiction (my new favorite place!), and asked the shop owner for a recommendation. He recommended this book, telling me it is among the best fantasy novels ever written. And he seemed quite shocked I have it already on my bookshelf at home and have not yet read it! (See my review of this book here.)

5. A book you should have read in school – Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

This is another book I’ve been “meaning” to read. It’s already on my TBR list, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to put it here in this category. I’m only sorry I haven’t read it before now. (Here is my review of this book.)

6. A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child or BFF – Classified Woman, by Sibel Edmonds

I decided to let my sister choose this one for me as I knew she would offer me a book that would challenge my thinking. I don’t consider myself a closed minded sort of person, but I do get a little stuck in my comfort zone. I’m looking forward to reading what she picked out for me. When I asked her why this book, she said because she feels it’s one every American should read, “so we can begin to understand the level of corruption we are up against.” (Read my review of this book here.)

7. A book published before you were born – Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank

This book is perhaps another I should have read long before now, but I have not. This one found it’s way on to my list last year while I was doing some research for a young adult novel I’m writing. I read the autobiography of Meip Gies, the woman who helped to hide the Frank family, and I’m looking forward to reading Anne’s story. (Read my thoughts on Anne’s diary here.)

8. A book that was banned at some point – Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

I chose this book because it’s already on my TBR list. When I looked up banned books in order to choose one, there were so many I haven’t yet read. To be honest, I know very little about this book. I’ll let you know more once I’ve read it. (Here is my review.)

9. A book you previously abandoned – Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott

This one has quite the story. I had picked up this book back in high school thinking to read it and write a paper on it, in order to get some extra credit for my English class (yes, I was a bit of an overachiever in high school). The extra credit thing never materialized, and in truth, I never even cracked this book open. I don’t think I’ve ever put a book down once I’ve started reading it no matter how bad I thought it was, so this was the only one that fit the category. (Here is my review of this book.)

10. A book you own but have never read – Stop That Girl, by Elizabeth McKenzie

Some years back I attended a writers’ conference where Elizabeth McKenzie was one of the presenters. I attended her workshop and enjoyed her presentation. So much so, that I picked up her book. I was so excited to read it, I really don’t know why I didn’t read it right away. It’s time to fix that. (You can find my review of this book here.)

11. A book that intimidates you – H. G. Wells, Collector’s Book of Science Fiction

This book includes three of his novels and several short stories as they first appeared in the original science fiction magazines. I find this one intimidating because it’s H. G. Wells. And it’s big. This one has been sitting on my bookshelf mocking me for far too long. (Find my review of this collection here.)

12. A book you’ve already read at least once – Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

It was a real toss up on this one. I’ve been wanting to reread this for awhile now, but also Tad Williams’ Otherland series. But it basically came down to this: four books, or one? Yes, I realize there are more Ender novels, but this one stands well on its own. (Read my review of this book here.)

So, there’s my reading challenge list. Twelve books, twelve months. Five women authors, seven men. More than half science fiction/fantasy. Two non-fiction.

I’ll post a review of each book once I’ve finished reading it. I’d love to hear about what you’re reading. Leave a comment.

Thanks for reading!

Banish the Fear

Okay, so here it is. Yet one more new blog out there in cyber world. Why should you spend your time reading mine? I’m hoping you might find what I have to say interesting. Perhaps entertaining. Maybe even useful.

I’m a writer. And my goal for this blog is to do just that. Write.

I have been writing creatively at least since high school—a long time ago. I tried stories, poems, plays, personal essays. But even before that I can remember vivid, imaginative play with my sisters, my toys. I would play out stories in my head before going to sleep at night.

I love stories. Reading them and writing them. It’s part of who I am at the deepest level. My mother has always been an avid reader. I have also always loved reading, though I’ve never been as fast a reader as my mother, or my sisters.

Through college, I didn’t find as much time to read for the simple pleasure of reading. And my creative endeavors focused mainly on short pieces such as really bad poetry and questionable short stories. I even wrote a short story for my final paper in my Russian history class. I scored an A for the course, so I must have done okay.

Sometime after college, when life became a mere existence from one paycheck to the next, I began to write my first novel. I bought a new computer and set up a writing space. I subscribed to magazines and bought books on writing. I had all these ideas in my head and I was going to be a writer!

I played around with words. I wrote my novel. Half of it at least. Then I started to rewrite it. The novel foundered, and I have yet to finish that first one.

I got married. Started a family. My writing took a back seat. A really back, back seat.

Then, about six years ago, I was holding a tiny human in my arms and thinking about what sort of legacy I might be leaving for my son. A box full of unfinished stories. An imagination left inactive. I feared that’s what it would be. And I wasn’t okay with that.

Why then has it taken me so long to really get started with my writing? A very good question. I suppose it was fear. Insecurity. Lack of faith in myself and what I have to offer.

The lack of faith and insecurities are still there. I still don’t know that I have anything of value to offer my readers, but I’m hopeful. More than anything else I intend to write for myself. I will share what little I know about writing, what I’ve learned from my own reading and my experiences. I will share some book reviews as I can, and I do hope at some point to share my fiction.

And the fear? I’ve decided to banish the fear. It’s useless, and a waste of time. No one likes what I have to say? I’m okay with that. I will tell my truth. I will share my view of the world. I will give it my best. I won’t hold back.