Help: How does one run a writing workshop?

Dear writing friends,

During the summer I was recruited to run a four-hour writing workshop (aimed mostly at teens) in October. It’s October. The workshop is a few weeks away, and while I have some ideas, this will be my first time. I’m new at this. Any and all advice (regarding exercises, do’s and don’ts, anything at all!) from you lovely people will be welcomed and received with great enthusiasm. Please feel free to leave a comment, message me on Twitter, or email me at libby.maire@gmail.com.

Thank you!

Libby xxx

Photo by yours truly.
Photo by yours truly.

28 Things to do on Valentine’s Day (Illustrated with Harry Potter gifs)

I admit, it can be cute, and I love individual aspects of Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate, for one. And roses. And love. Those are all nice things.

**warning: next paragraphs are over-exaggerated, melodramatic, and full of gifs**

Buuut, it’s basically a holiday that boosts the greeting card industry, lingerie sales, risk of diabetes, attendance at bad romantic comedy films starring Taylor Swift, and stress (which in extreme cases over time can cause health problems and even death).

We single ladies/men are expected to moan about being alone, sitting at home eating ice cream from a container and watching The Notebook in our pajamas. We single ladies/men are expected to be unhappy.

See this BuzzFeed post. While it’s funny, it’s sarcastic implications are concerning.

I’m not going to dwell on this, because of course everyone knows Valentine’s Day is a great time to be single. While all your attached friends are out having awkward dinners and forgetting to take their birth control, you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT. It’s like Christmas, but without the loud relatives and Michael Bublé music blasting from every radio station.

Here are some suggestions for how you can spend your Valentine’s Day, if you’re single or not.

1. You can go out.

Alone or with friends. Or with the Dark Lord. Source here.

2. You can stay in.

…we probably have similar definitions of staying in. You know, pajamas, friends, etc. Source here.

3. Chocolate. I mean, it’ll be on sale tomorrow so you could wait. But you probably shouldn’t.

Filch it. Filch them all. Source here.

4. You don’t have to shave your legs. (You don’t have to shave your legs, ever.)

Even Snape is happy about this. No more Venus razors for me, suckers. Source here.

5. Watch endless episodes of Simon’s Cat.

This is why they invented internet, for ancient Egyptian cat worship. Source here. 

6. Dance to your playlists from highschool in your underwear.

Pretty sure I have the Lovegood dancing gene. Just let loose, man. Dance. Source here.

7. Invite your other single ladies/men over and play board games — because playing board games with your friends is highly underrated.

I’m no chess wiz. I’m more of a checkers type girl. Source here.

8. You can do nothing. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to exist. You can go about your life as usual and ignore consumerist attempts to get you to buy heart-shaped pillows that match absolutely nothing in your house.

Harry is talking the talk. Source here.

9. Buy your cat another bag of Temptations (because I’m sure you already have at least one bag).

Especially if he eats ears. Give the cat some treats. Source here.

10. Send your mom an embarrassing collage of all the selfies you’ve taken together.

harry-potter-selfie

No source necessary. We all know where this came from.

11. Rearrange your Harry Potter books.

Because you’re the only one who knows how to do it correctly, and with love. Source here.

12. Send terrible jokes to Facebook friends you don’t really know.

How many wizards does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Source here.

13. Cuddle.With a pillow, a cat, a dog, a friend, your favourite stuffed animal left over from childhood. Cuddle.

Nothing is better than a long hug. I’m sirius about this, guys. Source here.

14. Blast Serena Ryder.

Dumbledore knows what’s up. Source here.

15. Stalk cute people on Twitter even if they live in a different country.

Twitter flirting is the best flirting. @LibbySometimes 😉 Source here.

16. You should probably be nice and share your chocolate with others. Sharing is caring (even if it’s hard).

chocolate

Bless her heart. I could never do it. Source here.

17. Spend hours on IMDb planning all your trips to the movie theatres for the next year.

Research is important. Source here.

18. Reminisce about your exes. Laugh at all the poor attached people having to suffer through dates and other assorted pressures.

Gotta love uncomfortable social situations. Source here.

19. Eat lots of food for no other reason than because you can.

My life. Source here. 

20. Write a passive aggressive blog post/Facebook status/Tweet about Valentine’s Day.

Vent your feelings. I am. Source here.

21. Watch Jurassic Park.

And do you best raptor impression. Source here. 

22. Watch V for Vendetta.

Hugo Weaving causes excitement where ever he goes. Except future British governments. Source here.

23. Watch Sherlock.

MY FEELINGS. Source here.

24. Watch The Big Bang Theory re-runs.

I applaud your nerdiness, Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Roj. Source here.

25. Watch anything with Liam or Chris Hemsworth’s pretty faces and impeccable jeans genes.

One gif for Chris…

And one for Liam. Sources here and here.

26. Practice your axe-throwing. (Maybe start with darts. Or packing peanuts.)

You know, safety first. Source here.

27. Photobooth.

But I won’t judge you. Source here.

28. For each person you love, send them a single, anonymous red rose with a note that says “I’m watching you.”

That’s a special kind of love. Source here.

So happy Valentine’s Day, if you’re single or not.

Sources here and here.

10 New Year’s Resolutions Everyone Should Do

Happy New Year, everyone! Whether you celebrated last night with sequins and alcohol, friends and a movie, or a kiss with your significant other, the good news is that we made it to 2014! And we all know what New Year’s Day means. Resolutions. We have to make resolutions, to shape a new me, make ourselves better, newer, shinier. Lose the weight, get the girl/guy, write a book, give up drinking or smoking…

Last year I compiled a list of 10 New Year’s resolutions on my old blog. To update, I failed to finish A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin (I made it 7/8 through Book Four and for some reason stopped…and now I don’t remember what happened, so I have to start it again), I did not become the godmother of William and Kate’s little Prince George, and I didn’t meet the love of my life (but if you’re out there, 2014 isn’t too late). I did however, publish a book. It wasn’t a novel and it didn’t become a film or a teen fettish, but hey. I did it. I kind of blogged more…sort of. Here I am, anyway.

The birth of Prince George was one of the highlights of 2013. Click for Source.
The birth of Prince George was one of the highlights of 2013.

But let’s cut to the chase.

New Year’s resolutions are about making yourself better (apparently). Here are 10 smallish resolutions I’d like to attempt, and that I think everyone else should too.

1. Watch a foreign film.

Like, who watches foreign films? We see them flaunted a wee bit during awards season, but that’s it. We don’t follow up, look it up, go through the pleasurable pain of illegally streaming it from the internet, sitting on your bed at 1 am and squinting at the captions glowing on your screen. At least I don’t. But spending two hours watching and listening to another culture, without leaving the comfort of your duvet? This way you can be cultural, sophisticated, and lazy, the best North American combination.

Here’s a list to help you out.

Click for source.
1. Foreign films are like silent films…no one really watches them. We should change this.

2. Go mud sliding.

Because if you haven’t, you should, and if you have, then you’ll know exactly why you should do it again.

It's so fun. Just do it. Click for source.
2. It’s so fun. Just do it.

3. Learn to cook or bake something new and exotic.

For me, this should be easy since my culinary skills cover mac n’ cheese and pancakes, and that’s about it. Becoming a pro at a Greek dish or Italian tradition not only tastes good, but it’s highly impressive as well.

Here are some ideas!

I don't know what this is, but it looks good, and it came up when I googled "Greek food." Click for source.
3. I don’t know what this is, but it looks good, and it came up when I googled “Greek food.”

4. Read a biography.

Don’t go for something predictable like JFK or John A. MacDonald or Elvis. I’m not saying these people aren’t important, because, duh, they are, but try someone you don’t know anything about! Maybe Frida Kalho or Maya Angelou? Maybe Georgia O’Keefe or Rosalind Franklin? (I didn’t intend for all my examples to be female…it just turned out that way.)

Not only are you learning about someone imperative to life as we know it (or maybe as you will come to know it), but you’ll be bursting with facts that will awe the people you converse with. You will appreciate people who aren’t often appreciated by the general public, aside from in English and art classrooms and cafes.

Search biographies on Amazon!

Frida Kahlo, artist. Click for source.
4. Frida Kahlo, artist.

5. See/research an usual piece of art, visit it in person if you can.

Because who doesn’t love unusual art? My favourite piece, which I would LOVE to see in person some day is The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago.

Here are links to

The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago. Click for source.
5. The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago.

6. Read a really hard book.

Jane Eyre, The Lord of the Rings, Anna Karenina, Homer’s The Odyssey, Utopia…you pick. Read a really hard book, one that you maybe gave up on in the past. I’d like to re-tackle Jane Eyre, and maybe LOTR.

I have it...I just haven't managed to read it...yet!
I have it…I just haven’t managed to read it…yet!

7. Eat a “weird” and/or disgusting food.

For me, that might be sushi. I’ve never had it, and it doesn’t sound particularly appetizing, but this is my chance to prove myself wrong. It’s all about being cultured, people!

Hmm...any sushi lovers out there?
Hmm…any sushi lovers out there?

8. Take yourself on a date.

Whether you’re single or happily attached, do yourself a favour and take yourself on a date, at least one. You can dress up or dress down, go out or eat in. Take yourself to dinner and a movie, or go to an art gallery maybe your boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband/etc would never set their foot in. Make yourself your favourite meal and spend a night in your pajamas blasting Imagine Dragons and reading your favourite books.

Only you know what your ideal date is, so it only makes sense that you would be the one to take yourself on it.

(I’ve done this before, and I’ll be doing it again.)

I like this idea...
I like this idea.

9. Play with a little kid.

Because they’ll make you remember what it’s like to be five or seven or nine, when everything was simple and big and the most important observations are made. It’ll be awkward at first, because maybe it’s been a long time since you played, but do it. Little kids love teaching adults, especially how to play.

Kids are the greatest, really.
Kids are the greatest, really.

10. Love yourself and others.

This is literally the corniest thing I could say, but I don’t give a damn. It’s true.

Maybe this year is the year you’ll make new friends, better ones, ones that love you, too. Maybe this is the year you’ll be good to yourself, stop blaming yourself, stop filling your body with toxins, stop hiding. Get to know yourself, get to know the people who you love or the people you want to love.

Dagnabit, just love. It’s the best thing anybody can do.

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? Are you prone to keeping them, or not?

[Disclaimer: I didn’t intend to infringe any photographic copyrights!

Image Sources:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.]

I Am Not My Main Character

On this beautiful Thanksgiving weekend, let’s be thankful to all the people who’ve ever asked an author, “Is Mary Sue’s story based on yours? You and her are a lot alike!” Without those people, I would not be writing this.

In the dozens of novel ideas I’ve had and started (most of them not making it past five chapters with few exceptions) I have not based my main character on myself. They were all their own individuals with their own quirks and flaws and habits and experiences.

But people just love asking writers if their characters are based on themselves. It has happened to me, and you see it all the time in author interviews.

And once an author admits that yes, my punk-rock ninja boarding school heroine is based on myself, it doesn’t ring the same. Mary Sue is based on the author? Well, that’s, that’s….that’s cheating! Why couldn’t she just write a memoir? Isn’t that, you know, pretentious? Wow.

Suddenly people are treating the author the same way people treat those unfortunate souls who announce their love for One Direction. “Oh, well, I guess that’s your choice…but we’re not friends anymore. I’m deleting you from Facebook.”

Very not cool.

The next step up (or down?) from this is when writers take themselves and make them better. Thinner, more confident, usually with added combat skills and some steamy romantic interest. This is even worse in the eyes of people who find this out. It’s just…weird to most readers.

But here’s the deal. My characters are not me, nor are they better, stronger versions of myself. That being said, a lot of the times the easiest things to write are things I know best. “Write what you know” mantra. That includes certain circumstances and certain reactions. First hand experience is the most accurate way to present the same situation in writing, and I incorporate this into my storytelling. It could be something small, like a joke I shared with a friend, or a similar reaction to the wedding of Will and Kate.

There are aspects of my life that make for good reading. So why not include it? It isn’t intended to be a reflection of my life or the way I live it, but it makes my characters’ lives a wee bit more genuine.

But these are far and few in between. Great Aunt Emily in my WIP, for example, is a total figment of my imagination. I never had such a great aunt (thankfully). There are a few exchanges between characters that are snapshots from dialogue with a friend, and little annotations about things like rural life (e.g., the smell of manure in July) or the woes of going to a small high school.

Taking this another step deeper, I like telling stories that are “real” and “relatable.” I mean, who doesn’t? That’s the obvious goal of every writer. I grew up in a small town — a village, technically. The cow to person ratio is something like 6:1. You always get the “small town girl/boy” protagonist dominating YA stands, but this always bugged me; if they have their own high school, or more people than cows, then I don’t see it as “small town” simply because of my own experience. I relate best to 6:1 cow-to-people communities. I want to read about them.

So I’m writing one.

It’s not my life. I am not Ingrid Fletcher. Her story isn’t mine. We share similarities and some characteristics, but if I wanted to write my own story I’d write an autiobiography or start a hardcore diary. I’m a bit of a bookworm. Ingrid is 100x the bookworm I am. Ingrid is 100x shyer than me. Her friendships are different, her opinions are different, her habits and flaws are different, her deepest darkest secrets are completely her own. I’m just helping her explain everything to the reader in the most accurate way I can, without, you know, going skydiving so that one scene is all the more genuine.

No sir. I am not going skydiving for Ingrid’s sake.

Do you incorporate aspects of your own life to your writing? Is your protagonist a slightly different version of you?

Somewhat random, but hey. So am I.

Happy Thanksgiving!