I have a game for those of you of a literary bent.
Match these writers with their hobbies (answers here but don’t cheat!)
1. Emily Dickenson
2. Vladimir Nabokov
3. Franz Kafka
4. Ayn Rand
5. Flannery O’Connor
6. Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes
7. Haruki Murakami
8. Zadie Smith
9. Mark Twain
a. raising peacocks
d. inventing things
e. lepidopterology (studying butterflies and moths)
g. stamp collecting
h. listening to jazz
i. collecting porn
How did you do? Which of your hobbies would surprise people?
It’s 4 o’clock in London. Teatime.
I’ve lived in London for over six years, so believe me when I tell you that the British passion for tea may be a cliche but only because it’s absolutely true.
Even after all these years, I still don’t fully understand the traditions surrounding tea. It seems like my colleagues are always getting up from their desks and saying, “Tea?” with their heads tilted and a slight smile. The question and facial expression are always the same, no matter whether the urge for tea is a reaction to boredom, frustration with a manager or colleague, needing something hot to wash down an afternoon cake, or a desire to escape the desk and stretch the legs.
The urge for tea never seems to be prompted by thirst.
Yesterday, a friend at work brought in a lemon drizzle cake and told me we couldn’t touch it until teatime. Color me confused – isn’t tea time whenever you get yourself to the kitchen and turn the kettle on?
Apparently not. Another friend saw my confusion and sent me this video, which I think the Anglophiles among you will enjoy as much as those of you with a thing for puppets.
So make yourself a nice cuppa and watch the show. (No need to wait till it’s 4 o’clock where you are.)
If every nation in creation has its drink, what’s the favorite drink of your culture? Do you have any traditions around it?
Close enough to my dream. ©Charles Knowles, The Knowles Gallery, via flickr.com
For a couple of years when I was growing up, most of my family’s “new” possessions started out in the house next door. Our neighbors were wealthier than we were – especially when Dad was out of work and mom was a student teacher – and they regularly gave us the things they outgrew or grew bored of.
I don’t remember there being any stigma attached – all us kids were good friends and it didn’t seem to matter to any of us whether the toys were kept at their house or ours. The only time I remember being uncomfortable was when I tried to fit into the girl next door’s hand-me-downs.
Ever seen a squat, busty 12 year old try to squeeze herself into a dress that had fit a lithe surfer girl? That was me at sixth-grade graduation.
But I digress.
My mom also received hand-me-downs from the mom next door, but hers came in the form of furniture and magazines. Our neighbor had excellent taste, and she redecorated fairly regularly so we always had beautiful things, just a couple of years the wrong side of brand new.
I loved it most when mom got magazines because they were always about home decor. Mom encouraged me to cut out pictures I liked and put them in a scrapbook alongside descriptions of what my house would one day look like.
I have no idea where those books are now, but I vividly remember writing about the items I chose and imagining spending my adulthood in a home I’d created myself.
Before long, I began picturing myself as a writer in that home, and it’s an image that’s stuck with me all these years.
I’m sure most writers think about what their ideal writing space would be. Some are lucky enough to have their own room, or a basement to convert, or a little annex in the back yard where they can create the best atmosphere for their imagination to thrive.
Courtesy Krishna Sadhu/etsy.com
Here’s a picture of my hero.
Quite a looker, isn’t he? Well, this picture could actually represent most of us (plus or minus the penis, of course). It’s a sensory homunculus – a representation of our bodies that emphasizes our most sensitive parts.
The sensory homunculus distorts humans based on how many sense nerves each body part has sending messages to the brain.
One of my favorite descriptions of the homunculus is from Tommy Kelly on his blog Darkling Wood: “The Homunculus is what we’d look like to everyone else if we looked the way we felt.”
When British comedian Jimmy Carr saw a picture of one of these beauties on the quiz program QI, he said: “It’s a good rule for a first date – these are the areas you should be concentrating on.”
It’s a good rule for a novel, as well. We’re told to focus on the five senses, and the sense of sight is often the easiest to cover well. But the sense of touch is hugely important in helping us understand the world around us. To create well-rounded, realistic characters, we need to describe how things feel when they brush against our characters’ skin, particularly focusing on these sensitive body parts. It’s not just about the tingles they feel, but temperature, texture and pain as well.
First off, I’m sorry about the long blog silence. I’ve actually been *gasp* writing! And it’s been fantastic.
Not so fantastic is the long-term family illness stuff that my husband and I have been coping with, nor the ongoing work project that is destined to kill me.
But the writing is good.
And as I was relaxing with yesterday’s Guardian Review, I read a cool feature where several writers ask themselves questions that they wished journalists had asked them. Many are interesting and thought-provoking, while some are pompous and boring.
Here are a few of my favorites:
The other day one of my colleagues asked whether I’d quit my job if I get published. “Are you kidding?” I asked. “Who would I write about if I wasn’t around you guys all day?”
Nothing like a bit of paranoia to make a working relationship more interesting.
Okay, so I don’t write about my colleagues, but working does definitely crank my creative machine.
So how fantastic is this chart showing famous authors’ day jobs? It’s great to see how some of the most boring jobs on Earth inspired brilliant writing.*
Though I think I’d be looking at my career options if I were Charlotte Bronte.
How about you? Got a day job that pushes you to write – whether because it’s so great or to escape the tedium?
*Not that my job’s one of the most boring on Earth. I really love it. And I’m not just saying that in case my boss ever finds this blog. Seriously.
How did people exist before the internet? Sometimes I read historical romance and think, “They’d sort out all these problems in a heartbeat if they just had Google.”
Anyway, in an effort to grab all the goodies modern life can give us, I’ve joined RWA’s Online chapter and emailed off my entry for the Between the Sheets contest – can you believe it…they accept entries by email! How civilized.
On an unrelated note, I’ve just finished sewing my first dress – the Liverpool by Amy Butler. And after a tense couple days where it looked like I’d need a breast reduction to be able to button it up, I’ve realized that cotton’s stretchier than I thought. It buttons, and I don’t look indecent. What a wonderful world.
A few weeks ago, bloggers Sarah and Jane discussed arts and crafts with readers at True Romance. I loved reading the discussion because I’m a crafty person myself and have recently been thinking that the only downside to writing is that it consumes all my quilting time.
I’m glad to know I’m not the only one, and love to see how other crafty writers have integrated their two methods of creation.