Insomnia, Chocolate, and Other Fun Facts About Authors and Their Books

Behind every great story is another great story. However, these stories about the authors, how their books were initially received, and other interesting literary tidbits are not often known, so today I am going to share some of these fun facts about well-known authors and their books.

Insomnia, Chocolate, and Other Fun Facts About Authors and Their Books

  • Robert Louis Stevenson’s wife burned his first draft of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because she didn’t like it, calling the story “nonsense.” Robert Louis Stevenson had to rewrite it.
  • It is believed that Shakespeare added over 1,700 words to the English language.
  • Washington Irving, author of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, was an insomniac. How’s that for irony?
  • Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when poet Lord Byron proposed a ghost story contest among a group of friends.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, in only three weeks. He also ran a medical surgery during this time.
  • Authors Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe were neighbors when they lived in Hartford, Connecticut.
  • Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” was published in 1841 and is commonly recognized as the first modern detective story.
  • Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham was banned from China for portraying “early Marxism.”
  • Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, used to work for Cadbury after school taste testing their chocolates.

Do you know any more fun or interesting facts about authors and the books they wrote? If so, then share them in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Writing Prompts: The Spring Edition

Spring has sprung, the grass has risen, and it’s time to grow some story seedlings. With the scent of tulips in the air and the hopes of summer vacation approaching, take some time to plant words in the fertile sod of paper with these spring-themed writing prompts.

Spring Writing Prompts

  1. Elise is a poor, avid gardener who has just started planting flowers for a new employer when she discovers buried treasure in one of her employer’s plots. What happens next?
  2. Graduation is approaching, but Tyler might not get his diploma unless he can raise his failing history grade in the last week of classes. How does he do it?
  3. Burt’s new neighbor, Katherine, loves flowers, and he wants to impress her by growing a whole garden of them in his yard. Unfortunately, they all seem to die. What does he do next?
  4. Gretchen has run her church’s annual spring picnic in May for the past 20 years. However, this year, the snow isn’t melting in time for the picnic. What does she do?

Do you know any more great spring writing prompts? If so, then share them in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Book Recommendation—Why I Don’t Hide My Freckles Anymore: Perspectives on True Beauty

Though I love fiction books with excellent characters and stories, this month I’ve decided to recommend a nonfiction book that is very important to me. In days of commercialized beauty where you have to makeup yourself, stay slim, flatten your curls, etc. the book Why I Don’t Hide My Freckles Anymore shows us a different perspective on true beauty. This collaboration of essays written by BYU students, faculty, and many others was published in 2013 by Deseret Book as part of project to remind us where beauty truly lies.

Why I Don't Hide My Freckles Anymore-Beauty is a virtue quote

Summary

We live in a media-saturated culture that tells us that we aren’t good enough unless we are thin, blond, sexy, tan, perfect, etc. The constant bombardment of what the world perceives as beauty leaves many women with feelings of depression and inadequacy where their appearance is concerned. But Why I Don’t Hide My Freckles Anymore redefines beauty into being who we are rather than what we are.

“The strength in beauty refuses to allow us to be formed by cookie cutters. Cookie cutters are for children. Let us be women! Women with vision. Women who revel in what others might call imperfection. Women who recognize ourselves as capable of moving the world.”

The countless experiences shared by these women draw on faith, love, and trials to show what true beauty really is. What does one woman do after she learns her husband was never physically attracted to her? How does another woman learn to accept herself after losing her hair to chemotherapy? And after struggling with an eating disorder, how does a woman begin to see herself as God sees her? These powerful essays encourage women everywhere to love themselves the way they are.

“I am beautiful because I choose to believe it and that decision has set me free.”

Book Group Questions

  1. Which essay in this collection was your favorite and why?
  2. Have you ever felt that you weren’t beautiful? Share your experience and how you learned to accept your unique beauty.
  3. What is true beauty in comparison to the world’s idea of beauty?
  4. Why do we often connect beauty to love and acceptance? In what ways is this good and bad?
  5. Many of the women who wrote these essays relied on religion and spirituality to discover their true beauty. What are your thoughts on this?

The Pros and Cons of Bookworm Dream Jobs

After starting my new job as a Library Shelver, I realized that I have held most of the dream jobs bookworms would kill for. While reviewing, stocking, and writing books may sound like the perfect job to those of us who prefer books to people, there are (unfortunately) still some downsides to these dream jobs. Today I am going to cover some of the pros and cons of bookworm dream jobs that I have experienced.

Bookworm Dream Jobs pros and cons

Book Reviewer

Pros: Why get paid in money when you can get paid in books?! In the Travels of a Book Tourist section of my blog, I have had the opportunity to review many wonderful books. Not only do publishers provide reviewers with a free book, but you often get a copy of the book before it hits stores, so you can read it before everyone else!

Cons: Unfortunately, you may not love every book you review. In fact, you may hate some of these books. Normally if you dislike a book, you can return it to the library without reading the whole thing. However, as a reviewer, you promised to read it, so you have to force yourself to plow through every single page. Plus you feel a little guilty about pointing out the many flaws of the book when you provide your honest review.

Working at a Bookstore/Library

Pros: You are surrounded by books! You get to touch the books! You get to organize the books! You get to smell the books! You get to talk about the books! You get discounts on the books! I got to experience many these benefits when I worked at Deseret Book and at my current job working for Salt Lake County Library Services.

Cons: If you are an introvert (like many hardcore bookworms), then assisting customers/patrons can be nerve-wracking, especially if you don’t know how to help them and they are angry and want to blame all of their life woes on you.

Writer

Pros: Though I have worked as a writer, I’m still in the aspiring category where fiction writing is concerned. However, I do have some experience in this field and I have learned a lot about it from others. A writer is a dream job for a bookworm because you can create the stories you have always wanted to read. You can count yourself among the many writers you love. You can provide books for others to read and enjoy.

Cons: Anyone who has ever looked over their first draft knows that writing is not as easy as we would like it to be. Plus there is the matter of breaking into the field, working with agents/publishing houses/editors (or doing it all yourself if you self-publish), marketing your book, and praying that at least a few people will read it and like it.

More Books Writers Should Read—4. Wired for Story by Lisa Cron

Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story is a unique writing guide that utilizes brain science to show what readers want out of a story. Cron uses various psychological aspects to explain how to craft characters, plots, and conflicts in a way that will allow your readers to enjoy your story and want to keep reading it. She covers the development of a protagonist’s external and internal conflicts, the cause-and-effect trajectory of story, how specific details need to have relevance to the plot, and much more.

Wired for Story-More Books Writers Should Read

  • “From the very first sentence, the reader must want to know what happens next.”
  • “A story is how what happens affects someone who is trying to achieve what turns out to be a difficult goal, and how he or she changes as a result.”
  • “Simply put, we are looking for a reason to care. So for a story to grab us, not only must something be happening, but also there must be a consequence we can anticipate.”
  • “To hold the brain’s attention, everything in a story must be there on a need-to-know basis.”
  • “Writers who can’t sum up a story they’re telling in a clearly focused, intriguing sentence or two probably haven’t written a clearly focused, intriguing story.”
  • “The story isn’t about whether or not the protagonist achieves her goal per se; it’s about what she has to overcome internally to do it. This is what drives the story forward.”
  • “Ultimately, what moves a story forward are the protagonist’s actions, reactions, and decisions, rather than the external events that trigger them.”
  • “Conflict must be palpable long before it rises to the surface. It’s the potential for conflict that gives urgency to everything that happens, underscoring even the most benign events with portent.”
  • “In short, ‘telling’ tends to refer to conclusions drawn from information we aren’t privy to; ‘showing,’ to how the characters arrived at those conclusions in the first place. Thus ‘show, don’t tell’ often means show us a character’s train of thought.”
  • “Constantly upping the ante gets the protagonist in shape, which is crucial, since the final hurdle he’ll have to sail over will be impossibly high. Thus the more you put him through before he gets there, the better.”
  • “The villain has to have a good side, however fleeting and minuscule. After all, no one is all bad. Or, if they are, they rarely see themselves that way.”
  • “Readers are always on the lookout for patterns; to your readers, everything is either a setup, a payoff, or the road in between.”
  • “All subplots must eventually merge into—and affect—the main storyline, either literally or metaphorically”

This is the last post in the More Books Writers Should Read series. If you know of other great writing guides, then tell me about them in comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

More Books Writers Should Read—3. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic isn’t specifically a writing guide, but creativity is an essential part of writing, so I decided to include this book on my list. Elizabeth Gilbert shows us that creativity isn’t something to dread or an implement of suffering, but rather creativity should be embraced as something divine, fun, and magical. Through courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, and trust, we can reach the divinity of creativity and develop more wholesome lives.

Big Magic-More Books Writers Should Read

  • “A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and . . . [an] interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.”
  • “Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome.”
  • “Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do . . . There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still—your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”
  • “I don’t sit around waiting to write until my genius decides to pay me a visit. If anything, I have come to believe that my genius spends a lot of time waiting around for me.”
  • “The essential ingredients for creativity remain exactly the same for everybody: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust—and those elements are universally accessible. Which does not mean that creative living is always easy; it merely means that creative living is always possible.”
  • “Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes—but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work.”
  • “What you produce is not necessarily sacred, I realized, just because you think it’s sacred. What is sacred is the time that you spend working on the project, and what that time does to expand your imagination, and what that expanded imagination does to transform your life.”
  • “Your creative work is not your baby; if anything, you are its Everything I have ever written has brought me into being. Every project has matured me in a different way. I am who I am today precisely because of what I have made and what it has made me into. Creativity has hand-raised me and forged me into an adult.”
  • “Curiosity is the truth and the way of creative living.”
  • “I think a lot of people quit pursuing creative lives because they’re scared of the word . . . they quit as soon as things aren’t easy anymore, as soon as it gets painful, or boring, or agitating. They quit as soon as they see something n their minds that scares them or hurts them. So they miss the good part, the wild part, the transformative part—the part when you push past the difficulty and enter into some raw new unexplored universe within yourself.”

Check out my blog post tomorrow where I will share a writing guide that uses psychology to teach writers what readers want from their story.

More Books Writers Should Read—2. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott provides a unique take on teaching writing by making her writing guide a memoir, too. This combination of life lessons and writing tips offers a deeper perspective on being a writer and learning to write well. In Bird by Bird, Lamott covers the insecurities many writers have, pushing through your lousy first drafts, and the classic bird by bird story of how we need to take the immense task of completing a novel one step at a time.

Bird by Bird-More Books Writers Should Read

  • “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft—you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft—you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed.”
  • “Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can’t—and, in fact, you’re not supposed to—know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing.”
  • “Something must be at stake or you will have no tension and your readers will not turn the pages.”
  • “You need to be moving your characters forward, even if they only go slowly.”
  • “As you learn who your characters are, compassion for them will grow. There shouldn’t be just a single important character in your work for whom you have compassion. You need to feel it even for the villain—in fact, especially for the villain. Life is not formula fiction. The villain has a heart, and the hero has great flaws. You’ve got to pay attention to what each character says, so you can know each of their hearts.”
  • “Metaphors are a great language tool, because they explain the unknown in terms of the known.”
  • “So if you want to get to know your characters, you have to hang out with them long enough to see beyond all the things they aren’t.”
  • “To be a good writer, you not only have to write a great deal but you have to care.”
  • “Writing is about hypnotizing yourself into believing in yourself, getting some work done, then unhypnotizing yourself and going over the material coldly.”
  • “I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good enough at it.”
  • “You are going to have to give and give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be writing.”
  • “Try to write in a directly emotional way, instead of being too subtle or oblique. Don’t be afraid of your material or your past. Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. Be afraid of not getting your writing done.”
  • “Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.”

Keep an eye out for my next blog post on Monday where I will share a book about embracing your creativity.

More Books Writers Should Read—1. 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias

In August 2016, I presented a series of blog posts called Books Writers Should Read, where I recommended six great writing guides. Today, I am going to extend that series by suggesting More Books Writers Should Read. Keep an eye out this week and next to learn about four more great books that can help improve your writing.

Do you have a great story idea that needs a plot? Do you want to learn more about the patterns found in successful stories? If so, then check out 20 Master Plots. Ronald B. Tobias covers what plots need in order to outline a story that is satisfying to yourself and your readers. He also reviews 20 of the most common plots, using classic literature and films to show the different elements of these plots and the directions they can take.

20 Master Plots-More Books Writers Should Read

  • “If you strike out without any idea of destination, you’ll wander aimlessly. But if you understand something about the kind of plot you’re trying to write, you’ll have supplied yourself with a compass that will know when you’re wandering and warn you to get back on track.”
  • “Plots have endless possibilities, so there must be endless plots.”
  • “Plot is story that has a pattern of action and reaction.”
  • “Three thousand years of generating plots has given us some common denominators that hold up as a general rule. And like all general rules, they frequently are broken. Pablo Picasso was on target, however, when he said we must first learn the rules to know how to break them.”
  • “Whereas life allows in anything, fiction is selective. Everything in your writing should be relative to your intent.”
  • “What all writers have in common is a method. Once they get the method down, some of them then write a book about it. Those books should be title “This Is What Works for Me,” because readers who respect certain writers too often take their methods as gospel. These methods may be tried and true for those writers, but there’s the mistaken assumption floating around that if it works for one person, it must work for everyone else, too.

“Not so.

“There’s a method for each of us. The writer must know how he works and thinks in order to discover which method works best.”

  • “The foundation of comedy is deception: mistaken identities, double meanings, confusion.”
  • “Put your main character between a rock and a hard place. That’s the true source of tension in fiction.”
  • “Your character will come to life by doing, not by sitting around and telling us what she feels about life or about the crisis of the moment. Do, don’t just say.”
  • “So what does this quest for originality mean? Find a new plot that no one has used before? Obviously not, because plots are based on common human experience. If you found a plot that had never been used before, you’re into an area that is outside of the realm of shared human behavior. Originality doesn’t apply to the plots themselves but to how we present those plots.”
  • “The skill in making obstacles is not just presenting hurdles for your character to run over, but hurdles that somehow alter your character. These are life experiences that teach your character something about his quest and something about himself.”
  • “Generally it’s good advice for any writer to start a scene late and get out early; that is, don’t drag your reading through every detail leading up to the action, and don’t ‘hang around’ after it.”
  • “Plot is the form your idea will take; give it shape and substance as you write. Whatever you do, however, don’t be a slave to the plot. You are not in the service of it; it is in your service. Make it work for you.”

Keep an eye out for my post tomorrow where I will share a book that is both a memoir and a writing guide.

Book Review: The Vicar’s Daughter by Josi S. Kilpack

Misunderstandings escalate into a tangled web of love triangles in the regency romance, The Vicar’s Daughter by Josi S. Kilpack published by Shadow Mountain Publishing. In this story of love, letters, and family, Cassie’s attempts to help her sister go awry when she falls in love with the man she intended for her sister.

The Vicar's Daughter Blog Tour Image via Shadow Mountain
Image via Shadow Mountain Publishing

“The confidence Lenora needed would only come through success gained through action she was too nervous to take. Cassie, however, could take that action and write letters on Lenora’s behalf.”

Summary

Cassie will never be able to get married. Her parents insist that only one daughter should be out in society at a time, and Cassie’s shy older sister, Lenora, isn’t going to catch a husband anytime soon. But when Lenora has a chance encounter with the young bachelor, Evan Glenside, Cassie sees an opportunity. Cassie writes letters to Evan in Lenora’s name in hopes of forming an attachment between him and her sister. But things fall apart when Cassie realizes that she is falling in love with Evan.

“Think over what you have done. Look for the ways in which you turned straw to gold and be glad for the grace of our Lord, who saves us from ourselves.”

Review—5 Stars

I received a copy of The Vicar’s Daughter from Shadow Mountain Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Josi S. Kilpack once again produces a delightful regency romance. She did such a masterful job at drawing me into the story that I often forgot I was supposed to be reviewing it. Kilpack also does amazing work at escalating conflict upon conflict until you agonize over whether the characters will ever find happiness or not.

“There is joy yet left for you, Cassie. Do not miss it simply because you cannot see past what cannot be.”

I always feel the best characters are the ones we can sympathize with, and Kilpack created several such characters. I could really feel their pain, guilt, and embarrassment. Cassie’s journey from being headstrong and childish to humble and sympathetic was especially well done. I also loved how the story’s plot twists and resolutions were unexpected and perfect at the same time. Great job!

To see more reviews of The Vicar’s Daughter, check it out on Goodreads and Amazon.

Writing Prompts: The Easter Edition

Spring has sprung and Easter traditions are abound, from dyeing boiled eggs to recounting Jesus Christ’s resurrection to watching the four-hour long movie, The Ten Commandments. But between tales of Peter Cottontail and eating marshmallow Peeps, try to get in some writing time with these Easter writing prompts:

Easter writing prompts

  1. On an Easter egg hunt, Shannon finds a check for a billion dollars inside one of the eggs. What does she do next?
  2. Instead of getting candy in their Easter baskets, Thomas and his siblings get food that would have been eaten in Jesus Christ’s time, like hummus and lamb. Recount their experience.
  3. Derrick has no artistic skill whatsoever, but somehow he accidentally joins a hardcore Easter egg dyeing contest. He realizes that the prize money can pay his rent next month, so how does he win?
  4. The Easter Bunny goes on strike this year. Who will save the Easter holiday?
  5. Debbie’s family celebrates the Passover but never Easter. Though eight-year-old Debbie loves her family tradition, she really wants to eat some of those chocolate bunnies. How does she sneak one into her home?

Do you have more ideas for Easter writing prompts? If so, then share them in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.