Does Schooling Create a Better Writer?

Hello Everyone!

2020 has already proven to be full of surprises as well as change within my home. I have learned many new skills being a Paraeducator – my most recent adventure is being a 1:1 sub for a little boy with behavioral and social needs. I have learned so much from the wonderful staff and have been enjoying my time with him no matter how trying it may be at times.

I have also changed my schooling plan – again! Shocker right? Not really. I have been struggling a lot with what it is that I want to accomplish and I have decided that a teaching certification would allow me to be both financially stable as well as give me a job that I enjoy while I work on my MA in a few years. I think that it is important to continue living life before throwing myself one hundred percent into school… again.

That being said, I still plan on working on the blog as well as working through book reviews and practicing and refining what I do while I continue on a new adventure.

That leads me to the topic that I wanted to cover for this week. Does having a formal education make you a better writer? The short answer is maybe. Here is the longer one: Yes and No. Almost the same answer. Let me explain.

Schooling teaches you thinks such as: grammar, paragraph structure, new styles, and critical thinking. It helps to expand what you read if you tend to lean one way only for books and it shows you new techniques.

Here’s where I think that school gets int the way: You don’t have time to practice. Writing the way that you want to takes time and practice. Personally, when going to school I did very little writing that wasn’t for an assignment and I didn’t get to develop the skills that I wanted to.

While school does help to broaden your horizons a bit, nothing beats practice and experimentation. Try something safe then do something crazy. Write a horror story that ends with the person playing barbies and then write a horror story where the person is being used as the doll by the monster under the bed. Write in first, second, and third person. Figure out what you like, what you hate, what you are good at, and what you are bad at. Without knowing that there isn’t a way for us to move forward with our craft.

Some of the most awesome things we write can be a result of an experiment that went horribly wrong. I tried to write a short story that was a thriller/horror and it turned into a crime/murder mystery novel. It’s written in multiple perspectives – which is something I’d never done before – and I have entire sections where no names are used, only pronouns.

I do think that school helped me to learn about writing, but I think that it also showed me where my curiosity was. I rediscovered my love that had been destroyed by “real world” thoughts and I didn’t know what real happiness was until I allowed myself time to explore that.

I learned what it is that I want to read. Every author should write something that they would want to read – I think that that is what is most important.

Moving aside from that, I do think that a writing community is very important too. I have a couple that I am apart of on Facebook and I have even been working with some of them to set up pen pals- which is something that I’ve always kind of wanted! I am very excited to try another style of writing and get to know a lot of amazing people through this process.

As always any comments, questions, or concerns are more than welcome!

Till the next chapter,

Amanda

Young Readers Book Review: Warriors Into the Wild

Hello Everyone!

I know that this was a review that was supposed to be posted before Christmas, but what can I say, I was having a very hard time getting through everything that I needed to and by the time I realized what had happened, it was already Christmas Eve.

Anyway, I hope that you all are ready for a 2020 full of books, book reviews, and analysis of book characteristics

So let’s get started!

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Title: Warriors Into The Wild

Author: Erin Hunter

# of Pages: 288

Genre: Animal Fiction/ Fantasy Fiction

Published: January 2003

Total Reading Time: 2 Days

Rating out of 10: 10

Summary:

For gerations, four Clans of cats have shared the forest. But ThunderClan is in grave danger, and ShadowClan grows stronger every day. In the midst of this turmoil appears a house cat named Rusty… who may turn out to be the bravest warrior of them all.

Review:

This is probably one of my favorite young reader series of all time. The last time I read this series was when I was 15 and I love it as much now as I did then.

Erin Hunter is a pen name that was taken on by several authors who cowrite the series together. With how many books that they have put out, I think that the amount of consistency between all the books is absolutely amazing.

Now, talking about Into the Wild: this is the first of six books in the original series. Since this one came out, there have been about 3 more (possibly 4) series released that continue to follow the story of the clans and especially the cat that we meet in the first book: Rusty.

I’m not going to go too far into this, but there is a lot about this series that makes it nice for younger readers, which is what I want to focus on here. There are 5 things in this book that stand out as working well for younger readers: pace, character types, theme, relatability, and adventure.

This book moves very quickly. In the beginning you meet a young kitten, and by the end he has been completely accepted by the clan that he has entered. At no point does the book drag on about something specific. There are also a lot of different characters types that were presented that are easy to latch onto. The best friend. The mentor. The person-you-thought-was-a-bad-guy-but-actually-is-a good-one. The real bad guy. And of course, silent supporters. These are things that kids can easily recognize in books and relate with them at times.

The animal theme that is all so present here is something that kids gravitate towards – at least I know that I did. This theme is presented in a lot of children’s books, so sticking to the common theme and changing it is something that can help ensure readers. Finally, there is always a sense of adventure during Into the Wild. Part of that comes with the pace involved, the rest comes from an uncanny attention to detail. Everything happens for a reason – and remembering those reasons can be the hardest part.

Warriors is a series that I will be reviewing A LOT so be prepared to look at these often especially as my reading continues to pick up in the new year. A lot of book reviews will be coming out, so I may space them out and release one every couple of days.

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I hope that everyone enjoyed this – and I hope that you’ll take the time to read this. This is an amazing book series with dedicated authors and a large amount of supporters.

I think that this series is quite magical.

Till the next chapter,

Amanda

Memories

Hey Everyone!

So Monday’s suck and I’ll just leave it at that, but today is Tuesday so let’s talk about something kinda fun.

As a quick announcement, after this week I will be taking a break until the first full week in January, which is going to be January 6th. I know that my posts have been a bit spuratic and some of you may be thinking – “break? But nothing has happened!” and I can assure you that there has been a lot happening behind the scenes. 2020 is going to be a fun year with some videos going up on YouTube in January and if people are interested, some book arts videos. I like it and would love to show people how I do it and see what you guys do too.

Also as another announcement, I am going to try to be very diligent about posting both book reviews and blog posts on Monday, but sometimes – like today it will be on Tuesday.

Feedback is also very welcome – anything to make stuff more interesting for you guys. Writing is fun and I sometimes feel myself talking in circles, so if anything sounds interesting or if you would like me to try a specific kind of writing then please let me know!

Moving onto this week, I have a list of blog post ideas that I have in my phone, and this one I’m almost positive was supposed to be “memoir” but got auto corrected to memories. Sound similar? They should! But because we are coming up to the end of the year, I wanted to share some of what has happened this year for my family and I.

2019 has been exciting and a lot has happened. Events in my life are something that inspire me to write, so I think it is worth talking about on here – even if I decide to cover Memoir’s a little later. I have a couple that are worth reading if you’re interested, but again, that’s for another time.

Memories are good and bad, so here’s a list of them from beginning to end:

  • My nephew turned two in March
  • Clamor 2019 came out in May
  • My cousin had her second son in May
  • I graduated from UWB in June
  • Several friends graduated High School in June
  • Writers Block Blog started July 1st, 2019
  • Laments was finished and up for sale on July 19th, 2019
  • I worked a fireworks stand over the week of the 4th of July
  • Ace Passed Away on August 6th, 2019
  • My Grandpa turned 91 on August 8th
  • I left my job at McDonalds on September 14th
  • I got a job at the Mukilteo School District as a substitute Paraeducator on October 7th
  • I got a job at Vetco on October 8th
  • I spent Halloween in a Grinch onesie with my nephew dressed as Batman and his mom as Harley Quinn
  • Halloween week my step mom was in Argentina with her sons on a missions trip
  • My friends moved into their new home on October 30th
  • Thanksgiving was spent in Montana with my grandparents and a lot of snow
  • I completed NaNoWriMo 2019 with almost 51k words – but an incomplete story
  • I turned 21 on December 8th
  • I had my first drink in a bar on Friday December 13th – not only was it Friday the 13th, but it was also the night after a full moon. We were in Bremerton.
  • I found my home school and was contracted as a para educator at Fairmount elementary school on December 16th – not as many hours as I’d like, but a good start.

The year has been full of ups and downs. The biggest down being the loss of Ace in August, but I have learned so much about myself and the work that I love doing, what I want to do, and what I want my future to look like.

After working at the School district for a little while, I am rethinking some of my steps after my MFA. Whatever I do though – I know that I’ll be having a blast.

Life is too short to take it too seriously. Do what you love and love what you do. I didn’t think that I would look forward to talking with kids about where chocolate milk comes from – by the way they come from chocolate cows – or if I would rather have 4 arms or 4 legs (4 arms by a long shot) – but it is something I love and these kids inspire me all the time.

There is something very satisfying about having a little girl who is in my favorite program run up to me and ask if we can be friends – YES WE CAN! I’m not sobbing at all!

Happy Holidays from my family to yours, post your year in review at the bottom, I’d love to hear about it. Everything is worth celebrating- if it’s from a birth to a conversation about chocolate milk cows.

Be safe and see you in 2020!

Till the next chapter,

Amanda

Hey all! One of my biggest projects of 2019 was Laments! I still have 40 copies available so message me and let me know if you want one! These are good for anyone interested in mental health disorders or how the human mind works.

Reading Below Your Reading Level

Hey Everyone!

So this is my second post this week, so I won’t spend a lot of time on an introduction. But I’m really glad that you are reading this particular post. This is a topic that I have been wanting to talk about for a long time because I think it is very important.

When we’re in school, we are told to never read below our abilities – that we should always be looking for a book that is harder than the last one even if it’s only by a little bit. As an adult now, I am finding it to be somewhat of a challenge to have time to read at all let alone read something that is harder for me. I want a story that is entertaining no matter how easy the read is. As a writer, I think that reading is very important. I also think that everyone should be actively reading and looking for story tellers no matter how easy the books are to read.

Since working with elementary age children, I have found myself being drawn back to books that are meant for children between the ages of five and twelve. Books like: Box Car Children, The Hardy Boys, Junie B. Jones, and of course, the Warriors series. Which – is still one of my favorite book series of all time despite the fact that I am a dog lover and not someone who cares much for cats.

I believe that there is so much that we can learn from reading these kids books as adults – or more importantly – as writers. Books like the ones that I listed above show us the basics of writing in the genre. It takes a complicated and intense thing like – animal fantasy – and can simplify them in something like Animal Ark or complicate it into something like Warriors – which creates it’s own world.

Something that I want to start doing, is every other week reading and talking about one of these ‘lower-level’ books instead of one that is considered to be more my speed. I want to do a normal review on it and then examine the story telling qualities and skills that it presents and what some of the skills to learn from it could be. I want to read these books like a writer would.

Some of you may think that it’s kind of dumb, but I think that there is a lot to gain from reading books that we used to as kids. I mean, we read them as kids because they told a good story. They held our attention. Now as an adult I want to read these books and see what they do to prepare us to read more complicated books.

How does Goosebumps get us into horror novels later on?

How does Junie B. Jones get us into memoires and slice of life books?

How does Nancy Drew get us into mystery novels?

How does Magic Tree House get us ready for adventure novels?

I think that the things that we read as children really help us develop our writing styles as well as the kind of books that we like to read. So why not explore these books that helped to shape the way that we read and think about books now?

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this so drop your comments down below and I look forward to posting my next book review!

Till the next chapter,

Amanda

NaNoWriMo 2019 Debrief

Hey Everyone!

So last week was really bad cause I got super sick for no reason and I had a hard time bouncing back. I’m all better now though and ready to keep plugging along with work and I’ll actually have two posts for this week. One on NaNoWriMo and one on another subject that I have been really itching to get into.

NaNoWriMo was a great experience for me. I was able to write the 50,000 words in 29 days – which is insane to me. I have never written anything this long and having that time dedicated to getting something done – it has changed the way that I approach writing.

Even though I got the 50,000 words, I was not able to completely finish a rough draft of my book. I have quite a bit of story left to write, but I’m estimating that my book will be around 85,000 words before I will be ready to start drafting again, and I’m hoping to be completely done by the end of March.

Before this, I couldn’t talk much about what the experience was like, but like anything else, I think you get out what you put in. I decided at the beginning of November that I was going to try my hardest and it got to the point where I knew that I needed to write and that I wanted to. Now that the month is over, I miss writing every day. I fell in love with the story and characters that I had been working with and I just want to finish it so bad.

I have always had an active imagination and I love thinking about what characters in my favorite books would do in certain situations. I kept thinking that about my own characters and how I want to read about it and know what makes them, them. It hit me pretty powerfully that the only one that can write that is me. So I need to write the story that I want to hear. I found that to be very interesting.

Over the last few days I have revisited my goals and looked over what I wrote during November and there were times that I got mad. I tried writing mine in a linear fashion and that worked – until I hit a massive writers block where I wasn’t able to write more than a few hundred words a day. I was really worried at one point when I was 6,000 words behind that I wouldn’t get done what I needed to in order to finish.

There is an amazing sense of accomplishment to know that I stuck through this and was able to finish. I look forward to revisiting this later and working through it with the help of a friend. She has already started reading it and she already has things for me to fix on it. Makes me want to groan, but writing is never perfect the first time around.

Something that I found to be helpful to me while writing is to write out a outline of what I wanted to cover in each section or chapter. I was writing in four perspectives, so making sure that all of the perspectives got their time and that a linear story was coming out was important to me in this one. I know people say that outlines are good, but I don’t think that you should completely plan your novel from beginning to end and detail by detail. It takes away some of the spontaneity of writing.

Sometimes people just need to get shot to make the story go right. Sometimes the person who did the shooting – if changed – can make the book turn in the other direction. I like having a direction without being blinded by what I planned to have in each section. I have even broken sections into two because they got to be too long. Work everything the way that feels right in the moment, not in the way that it sounds good on paper.

The final thing that I wanted to leave you guys with on this post is a section from my NaNo 2019 novel “Assassin’s Fiend.”

Please enjoy!

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Blood spattered the ceiling and dripped down the walls. The silence was deafening as she tried to listen for the next blow. Today had been exceptionally bad. They had come back and begun fighting. One had left, but the other had decided to pick his favorite. Apparently, that had been her.

She had kicked and screamed, but nobody could hear her. Now she was chained by her wrists to the ceiling and blood was running down her arms in long streaks from where the cuffs dug into her flesh, tearing it away from the bone.

The others had been cleared out by a few of the other men. They were likely about to have their own “fun” with the other women. Nobody knew what that meant. For her, it meant being hit and cut with a razor blade. Off to the side she could see a table with knifes and hammers in varying sizes and weights. Each one made to do something different.

Tears ran down her face as he picked up the largest hammer, a sludge hammer, and walked towards her. He circled her like a panther does its prey and then he brought the hammer down, smashing into the side of her left knee. She could feel the bones break in her leg and she let out a glass breaking scream.

One.

Two.

Three more times. Each one was harder than the last. When he finally set the hammer down, she could no longer support any of her weight on either leg. They were utterly broken.

She sobbed out the pain and yelled for help. His laugh made her gut wrench. They had beaten her before, but never this bad. He seemed angry for some reason. That made her scared.

After a few moments, she realized that he was no longer in her line of sight. He had left the room. For a brief moment she thought that she might be safe for the rest of the night. The morning would be cruel though because she couldn’t walk. She knew that she was as good as dead.

Footsteps alerted her to his return. She saw that this time he carried a small case with him. Perhaps nothing bigger than a briefcase. He set it on the table beside the other knives and hammers.

“My father was a butcher. Did you know that?” There was a bit of sadness in his voice. That mixed with what he said only made her whimper.

“No. I’m sure you didn’t.” From the case he pulled out a new series of knives. These were much older, some showing rust along the blades.

“He had a lot of rules for butchering anything.” The first knife was picked up and he weighed it in his hands as if getting a feel for it. It was a small knife. No longer than an index finger.

“First the head came off. Then the animal would be cut from neck, to belly, where we would then have to dig out the organs and get them ready for packaging.” He ran the back of the blade from the base of her throat to be base of her stomach as if giving instructions to a new butcher.

“I never liked doing that though. You see, I liked cutting them open and taking the organs out while they were still alive. That way, I could see the pain reflected in their eyes.”

She let out a long whimper and he brought the knife up to the side of her face.

“Only once I finish cutting out the minor organs, do I start cutting open the skull. If I’m lucky, they’ll still be breathing at that point. I love the sounds that an animal makes when they are already so close to death.”

His eyes became level with hers and his sadistic eyes appeared almost satanic to her.

“They still hope for a rescuer when they know it’s too late. My only downfall is how sloppy I tend to make my cuts. I get so excited that my hands shake,” he beamed.

She began to cry heavily. She couldn’t stop her cries and whimpers from escaping. She didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of hearing her in pain anymore.

“Allow me to show you.”

With that, the knife plunged into her chest so hard that blood splattered his face. She screamed in agony as he raked the knife down her body, slicing through cloth, flesh, and muscle. When the blade got caught on something, he just pushed harder, allowing her blood to freely run down to the floor and pool there.

With the cut complete, from his bag he pulled large pruning shears. Her sobs came out in gasping wails. It was getting harder and harder to breathe. Nothing could describe the pain that she was in.

He leaned forward and whispered in her ear.

“You may want to die now. This part hurts worse than anything, but it’s more fun if you don’t. I like the screams.”

Digging his hands into the flesh of her chest and stomach, he tore it apart, making it hang open, allowing him to see her ribs below. Using the shears, he cut through each of her ribs until he was able to tear her sternum from her body, letting it fall to the ground with a thud.

Her screams could be heard by all the other women.

They lasted for only a few more minutes until the silence was once again deafening.

It was only broken by his maniacal laughter.

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Thank you so much for reading – I know this was a longer post, but you got to read some of my more creative writings – and I think that this part turned out pretty well. My favorite POV that I have been writing in has been the killers. I hope you guys liked it.

Till the next chapter,

Amanda

Book Review: The Raven

Hey Everyone!

So, I just can’t seem to get the hang of much of anything because I literally wanted to have this review done a week ago – the book has been finished, but God forbid I get the opportunity to actually write the review. Between doing more job applications this week and being sick for three days I haven’t really had time to just sit at my computer and do anything – including talk about my NaNoWriMo news. But that is for Monday.

Anyway – let’s talk about The Raven.

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Title: The Raven

Author: Jeremy Bishop

# of Pages: 290

Genre: Action & Adventure, Fiction, Horror, Thriller

Published: August 2013

Total Read Time: 3 Days

Rating Out of 10: 7

Summary:

Jane Harper started out as an undercover whistleblower among a group of radical activists butting bulkheads with whaling ships in the Arctic Ocean. She ended up shipwrecked off the coast of Greenland and teamed yup with a pair of father-and-son whalers to destroy their own six-hundred-year-old Viking ancestors – resurrected as zombies by an insidious race of intelligent parasites. Quite a lot for even a tough-talking, two-fisted, former military brat like Jane to handle.

But winning their battle against the undead Vikings was just the beginning of the war against the parasitic Draugar now that the relentless creatures have escaped their island prison… and seek to turn the earth into a planet of the living dead. With a sturdy vessel under her feet, a do-or-die crew at her side, and weapons of mass-monster destruction in both hands, Jane takes to the hellish high seas to face down zombie whales and an armada of seafaring ghouls.

Review:

All in all, this was an amazing book. It did take a little bit of time to get back into the story since there was a lot of review in the beginning as well as a lot of personal information that you learned about Jane. I think it was important, but it was also something that made the book a little harder to get into.

Jeremy Bishop did another great job with this book. The imagery that he used made so much of this clear and an exciting story. I didn’t feel the horror aspect of this as much – but that may have been because I already knew quite a bit about the monster that was being presented. I still stick by the idea that this is a great introduction to the thriller and horror genre because it doesn’t have a lot of the same gore factor that I think Stephen King would have. I also think that this book didn’t have a ‘convenient’ character that showed up. Willem was kind of lucky person in the last book, but in this one, all the characters seem like they would have been a legit addition to the crew.

My favorite aspect of this book I actually can’t talk about because it would be a huge spoiler for anyone planning to read the books, but I will say that it was something that tore me up inside, but I could see coming from the beginning of the book no matter how much I wished that it wasn’t true.

I gave this a 7 out of 10 because it was a little harder to sink into this book, but once I was it was impossible to put it down. At the end of this book I was left with more frustrations then anything else because there is not a third book nor are there any plans from the author to write another book for this series. Personally, that is a huge problem for me. The way that the book ends is fine – but only if you intend to write another book. Without the other book, there is too much left up to the imagination. I didn’t like that at all, but it didn’t take away from the book enough for me to want to drop the rating on it.

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Thanks guys for taking the time to read this. I’m sorry that it is taking so long for book reviews to come out, but one way or another my work schedule is evening out after the first of the year which is very important to helping me get stuff done.

Please read these books – they’re fabulous and really deserve attention. The author abandoned the series in pursuit of works that he believed would be more successful, but I think that this is one that he should have stuck with longer.

Happy reading!

Till the next chapter-

Amanda

Fanfictions

Hello Everyone!

This week as I promised last week, I will be talking about fanfictions! This is one of my favorite genre’s to read and write.

Fanfictions for those who don’t know is someone who writes a piece of fiction based on another authors story. This could be as simple as writing your own character into the same timeline, or changing the story completely to support a new character. Not all fanfictions have new characters even – sometimes they are just “what if” stories.

One of the reasons that I like reading these kinds of stories so much is because you get to take a look at how someone else views a character. Sometimes they even fill in some of the blanks that an author leaves wide open.

There are a lot of people who discredit fanfictions because you are using a world that was created for you. Personally, I have never had a problem with fanfictions because it still tests the skills of a writer and the knowledge of the world that they are inhabiting. If they mess something up, then the fandom with correct them.

I have written several fanfictions over the course of several years, none of which that I still have. I think that fanfictions can be a great place for writers to start with and for them to build a writing habit with. If you are someone who is wanting to write, but don’t know where to start, a fanfiction might be a good place to begin. It gives you a timeline, a set list of characters and you can practice building your own character with the added bonus of maintaining the story line. Yay fanfictions!

There is only one time that I think that a fanfiction would be completely inappropriate and it has to do with publication. There are some personal rules that I would want to follow when it came to that, but I won’t get into that right now. Let’s face it though – most people write fanfictions for the fans and for themselves, so this normally isn’t an issue.

I love writing fanfictions, I’ll never stop. I have a plan in the works to actually work on a collection of fanfictions that explore what would have happened if a single event was changed in the story. I’m currently trying to figure out how I want to pursue it and if I’ll actually bind it into a chapbook, make it a book arts piece, or just post it on here for you guys to read.

Anyway, fanfictions are a staple in my family. Most people that write in my family have done one fanfiction or multiple. The thing to remember with these is that it’s about having fun and trying something different.

Well, that’s all for this week. I will be working on getting The Raven finished and the review posted by Friday. Because of the holiday, I am leaving Washington and driving 12 hours east to visit my family in Montana. I leave tomorrow but will be coming back home on Saturday.

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and a safe week!

Till the next chapter,

Amanda