Authors Ridge: A Resting Place for Storytellers

image source: Yankee Magazine

Surfing the Internet years ago, I learned of a place in Concord, Massachusetts called Authors Ridge. It’s a corner of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery; if the mention of Sleepy Hollow doesn’t bring to your mind the Headless Horseman, don’t worry. The symbolism behind Authors Ridge deepens.

This is a place where several greats of literature are buried practically side-by-side. You can visit Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Ellery Channing, Louisa May Alcott and her family.

I haven’t been there, but the thought of it makes me dream. I don’t think cemeteries have to be frightening, and this place would inspire me. Not everyone believes in ghosts, but any creative knows of muses.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote something staggeringly appropriate: Death comes to all, but great achievements build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold.” Those monuments aren’t tombstones; they’re stories powerful enough to outlive their authors.

Writers and bookworms make pilgrimages to this surreal place, leaving pens, poems and notes at the graves of their favorite authors. Perhaps they hope some talent will rub off, or want to thank them for writing characters that never died.

Whatever the motive, Authors Ridge is full of wonderful mystery. It’s one place I hope to visit someday; perhaps I’ll leave a pen of my own.

Read more about Authors Ridge:

Yankee Magazine – Sleepy Hollow Cemetery: Where Concords Legends Lie

Atlas Obscura – Authors Ridge

New England Travel Planner

What Art Teaches

Someone dear told me once that art is about learning.This applies to writing as well—but we aren’t just learning how to improve our craft or tell a story; we’re learning how to prioritize projects.

Right now I have two novels to edit and a little something I started in a notebook today. I’m learning to keep the plot bunnies at bay so I’ll actually put books out when I finish writing them. The Autumn Prince and Serenade both need work; if I give those plot bunnies the attention they want, I’ll be writing and writing without publishing anything.

I was going to launch another serial this spring, Daughter of the Forest, but I don’t think I’ll have time. I’ve been working on the draft, but it won’t be done by April; it might become a summer project. I’m eager to dedicate my blog to storytelling again; however, I’m going to do it when I know I can give it my all, like I did in October with The Autumn Prince.

Art is about learning to tell stories, no matter what your medium—but you have to figure out your limits. How much can you handle at one given time? It’s important to allow yourself a breather to binge-read a series or stare out the window at nice weather.

The Autumn Prince (novel) and Serenade should both be presentable by the end of the year if I learn to manage my time. I will keep you updated; I am so excited to have more books out!

If we don’t take the time to rest and reflect, our art will sound lifeless and forced. It took me this long to accept that truth. Each story will have its turn, but right now I have to focus more on editing than writing new manuscripts.

What are your plans for this spring? How do you handle demanding plot bunnies?

Review: After Alice by Gregory Maguire

Written by a master storyteller, After Alice might be the richest Alice in Wonderland retelling available if you’re looking for lyrical writing and elaborate description. I wanted to quote every other sentence or store it away in my memory, hoping Maguire’s genius might rub off.

The plot, however, is okay at best.

Our main character, Ada, is daunted by the responsibility of being a new big sister. In a moment of anxiety she runs away from her governess and from home, where she comes across Lydia—Alice’s sister—who claims Alice has vanished again before sending Ada off.

Moments later Ada finds herself in the same strange world—Alice has been there, because people know who she is. Since Alice is her only friend, Ada takes it upon herself to find her and bring her back home, but in a place where nothing makes sense that might be nearly impossible.

There are new characters, including a freed slave boy named Siam—and Charles Darwin! I might have to read the book again to understand the connection between Darwin and Alice’s Wonderland. Alice’s sister Lydia distracted me in scenes featuring the old man by flirting shamelessly with his American companion, Mr. Winters…

Aside from the curious presence of Charles Darwin, this was a typical Alice retelling; the nonsense is there, talking plants and a Cheshire Cat. The strange creatures Ada encounters are maddening as ever; I had the constant urge to shake them.

If you’re looking for a mind-blowing rendition of the classic, After Alice might disappoint; however, I suggest you give it a try for the writing alone. Few books these days have such a firm, beautiful control on description and language.

It might not have been my favorite book by Gregory Maguire, but I myself am not disappointed. I wanted a good story from a master, and it was indeed a good story (not great.)

I can only hope one day I’ll be able to write like him.

Review: Never Never by Brianna R. Shrum

Readers have been enchanted by the tale of Peter Pan for generations, sympathizing with the boy who didn’t want to grow up and the children who went on an adventure with him. Having read the book twice, it was exciting to find Never Never at the bookstore–because it sheds more light on the legendary Neverland.

When it comes to villains in a story, there’s so much we don’t know. Why did this person turn bitter and hateful? Which events turned him into such a haunted soul?

Never Never painted such a beautiful and sad past for Captain Hook. The tables had turned when I closed the book—it was Pan I hated most.

James Hook is a boy who has only one dream: To be a pirate. In real life, though, he longs to become a man and make his father proud. These two desires make for a powerful character, given that he’s only a boy when the novel starts, preparing to head off to boarding school.

That’s when he meets Peter Pan who tells him about the place Neverland, where children don’t have to grow up. Even though he wants to be a man and make his father proud, he wants to see the pirates; he agrees to go with Peter to visit, trusting that he’ll be returned in time to go to Eton.

But Peter does not keep that promise; he forgets it instantaneously after their arrival at Neverland, also forgetting that James never wanted to become a Lost Boy. James followed him to Neverland as a visitor; now he’s trapped following the whims of a scatterbrained boy who turns out to be a dictator.

When James breaks Peter’s greatest rule and begins to grow up, he runs away to the pirate ship Spanish Main, where he’s received as captain without question. The Main was always his dream, one Peter somehow brought to Neverland.

The sweeping novel chronicles James’ struggle to adapt as pirate captain in a place he’s beginning to hate, because it belongs to Peter; everything works at Peter’s whim, including the weather. Neverdays seem to last a lifetime, and there are so many scenes which broke my heart; in the end we find the soul of a person we grew up seeing as villain.

Fans of Peter Pan, misunderstood characters, and book spin-offs will enjoy Never Never. It’ll make you angry, it’ll have you tearing up; most of all, you’ll sympathize with someone you despised as a child.

Things are not always what they seem. By the end of Never Never you’ll probably hate the Pan, too.

Why Writers Don’t Have to Drink Coffee

For many writers, coffee’s essential in order to practice the craft. It gives us energy, smells good, and there are many ways to drink it—you can add creamer or take it black (I love it both ways!)

I, too, swore on coffee being the writer’s drink—until my mom got me a brilliant cocoa-latte machine. After experimenting with different things in the recipe booklet, I realized we shouldn’t limit ourselves to coffee.

Your cure to Writer’s Block might be simple as choosing a different hot (or cold) beverage!

Recently, homemade hot chocolate’s been my favorite when it’s time to write or edit. I’ve also tried a hot Nutella drink and a variation made with dulce de leche (if you haven’t tried this Argentine delicacy, do. It’s so sweet, you may only be able to handle one spoonful!) Other days I need a classic cup of warm tea. Since springtime weather has come, I’m planning to make cold drinks—special lemonades, iced coffee, even smoothies.

The point of this post is we shouldn’t confine the craft to one age group, genre, or drink. I used to look at people who preferred tea with suspicious eyes, but this winter realized that limiting our writing to one beverage is like forcing us all to follow the same storyline.

Writers shouldn’t be limited to the workspace habits of others. We build our own, choosing how to organize our desks, even picking which pens to write with. Believe it or not, this does make a difference!

Don’t let anyone force you to drink coffee. I encourage you to experiment before you decide it’s not for you, since a lot can be done to ‘customize’ it; however, don’t do it because you feel pressured.

You can be a writer and not like coffee. You can even be a writer and not like tea. Be a writer by being you.

Choose your favorite writing beverage, make a playlist your muse enjoys, write in a shadowy corner or a sunny spot in the yard. I believe we would get more original stories if people would walk away from stereotypes, embracing themselves as individuals.

What do you drink while writing—coffee, lemonade, or plain old water? Do you write in a cafe or your comfy bedroom? Do you listen to indie music or classic rock?

Choose what feels right for you, for the sake of your story!

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the Forest is a must-read for any faery tale lover, especially the tales where Fae are tricksters, inflicting chaos on unsuspecting humans. Fairfold is a little town located near a forest teeming with faeries; they live in tentative harmony, though the humans resort to superstition in order to avoid tricks. It’s been unusual but quiet in Fairfold for many years—but that’s about to end. The horned boy in the glass coffin wakes up, and with him chaos stirs.

I didn’t like the main character, Hazel, at first. There’s nothing special about her, and though we learn later that it was done intentionally, in the first chapter I wondered why she was the main character. Others—like her brother Ben, or his friend Jack—seemed more worthy of the title of protagonist. Of course later we learn there was more to her than the plain girl who kissed lots of boys.

But what we’re really interested in is the horned boy who’s slept in the glass coffin since Hazel and Ben’s parents moved to Fairfold. The glass has been beaten, screamed at, kicked, defiled, but nothing wakes him up. Hazel and Ben have always wanted to wake him, but could never have imagined what would actually happen when he did wake—never predict he would have such a bizarre personality, or lead them into a world so dark and frightening.

The Alderking rules over Fae who live perpetually dancing, drinking, eating, causing trouble to humans—but they aren’t truly free. I don’t think they know what happiness is, because they don’t know true love. The one time true love did come about, the Alderking put an end to it—something I can’t elaborate on without spoiling things. These Fae are not happy so they pick on the humans. I loved this idea of them.

Hazel seems so plain in the beginning, but I closed the book thinking I really wanted to be her, to live where she did, to have the friends she did. This is a book that swept me away; the writing was fantastic, poetic, creating vivid imagery in my head. It would be a great springtime read for anyone who likes faeries, mythology, and complicated characters.

The Start of Serenade Beta

Well, guys–it’s begun.

Earlier this year I completed a draft of Serenade coherent enough to show other people, but since it’s still a little rusty, it’s time to enter the beta reading phase. What is beta reading? It means I find people I trust who are willing to give me some of their time in order to help make Serenade the best it can be.

This is a frightening phase for the writer. I’m second-guessing every scene I wrote and was proud of; I’m afraid the characters are unrealistic or that the entire storyline will come off as a joke. When I slip into moments of such panic, I have to remind myself that beta readers are here to help mend any such errors. I have to trust that they’ll help make this book into a diamond.

It hasn’t been a year since I published Dissonance, and already I am weaving together the next adventure for my beloved characters. Serenade still won’t be out for a while (and there’s the possibility of a title change by the time all this is finished.) Using the notes my beta readers take, I’ll be working on it again in the autumn and arranging for publication in the winter.

I remember when four years ago I wanted nothing but to be an author. Now I am, and it never really gets easier, but with friends to help and support me–as well as the lovely reviews I get, even honest ones!–it’s totally worth it.

While beta readers tackle Serenade, I’m working on a few other projects, including my next blog serial expected to launch in the summer, and musehollow–a collection of shorter fiction. I want to learn to write good stories, short stories, and poetry. Yesterday I published the first musehollow tale here!

I’m living the dream–even the editing, the work, is part of the dream. Thanks for being with me through all of this, and I can’t wait until you can read Serenade too!