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Brewhaha Book Cafe

For Writers, Readers & Tea-drinkers

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August 2016

Wednesday Writers’ Cafe: where’s your dream writing spot?

The lone writer packs up his typewriter, his pipe and his Panama hat and bids adieu to the churning cogs of everyday life. He hails a train, a ferry, a sail boat… through tranquil doldrums and raging storms, his notebook is in hand, taking every profound thought, every insight into life’s meaning captive for future use on the way.

And then at last, he sees it, glittering in the afternoon sun – the pristine, untouched, perfect writing spot! In no time, his kettle is piping away while his type writer churns out the sort of prose people will be quoting for centuries…

Ernest Disapproval
Photo by Lloyd Arnold/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

We all know this romantic Hemingway type – the writer in his secluded sanctuary, evading all distraction and soaking up his surrounding inspiration to turn it into literary gold dust. But for most of us, we don’t even have the luxury of writing for a day job… it’s squeezed into the leftover time & space of our rather exacting daily schedules.

BUT, what if you could get away from it all? What if you could float away to your dream writing location?

Where would you go on your Dream Writing Holiday?

Earlier this week, Bri & I announced the location for our Writing Retreat 2016. We count ourselves pretty lucky to be “getting away from it all” and staying in a place like Lyme Regis that is positively blooming with literary history and inspiration. So in light of our excitement – because after all, this is a DREAM COME TRUE for us – we’re inviting you to dream.

Go on. Give it a go! Dream big & let us know where it takes you. You never know… Someday that dream may sprout wings & actually take you there!

Here are some funky actual writing retreats out there if you need a little help: http://thewritelife.com/writing-retreats/

This year’s Writing Retreat location is…

It is with great joy and many excited tummy butterflies that we can at last reveal the location for Brewhaha Book Café’s First Annual Writing Retreat!

In a mere month from now, the Sippit Sisters will be heading to England’s coastal West Country (aka ‘Poldark Country’).  And we’ll be bunking down in none other than “The Pearl of Dorset”: Lyme Regis.   

Television Poldark

Turns out, Lyme is a twin city with Bermuda! The seaport town certainly earns its ‘pearly’ nickname with its picturesque fishing harbors, it’s sweeping, jagged cliffs and its (weather-dependent) turquoise waters which were once the playground of Pirates and Smugglers!

fossils in Lyme

As if pirates weren’t enough to whet our whistles for our trip to Lyme, there’s yet more! Lyme is also famous for local-brewed cider, and – get this! –The Dorset Coast is a prime location for hunting primordial remains: ie. Dino bones!

But for Bri & me, it’s not so much the Jurassic fossils or the cider that call us to Lyme’s stony shores.  At least, it’s a fossil of a different nature we’re after – the deep imprints left by literary giants in romantic days gone by.

Turns out, we aren’t the first writers to make Lyme our creative haven.  Some notable others include Thomas Hardy  who based his imaginary county of “Wessex” on Dorset, and nearest & dearest to our hearts, Jane Austen. 

Bri & I spent out teenage days together in Jane Austen fantasy land, swooning (just a little) over Mr. Darcy’s “look”, hosting J.A. movie marathon nights, even recreating our own home-video production of Pride & Prejudice (don’t look for it on youtube – you will NOT find it!). Ever since Bri has been visiting me in the UK, we’ve been lucky enough to visit Jane Austen’s home in Bath together on a number of occasions. But… there is still one ‘must see’ item on our J.A. bucket list we are waiting to tick off.

Can you possibly guess what it is?  Yup. Lyme Regis!

For all our kindred Jane-ites out there, the mere mention of Lyme will immediately conjure up images of Persuasion, when the flighty & flirtatious Louisa-falls-groupLouisa Musgrave tries to impress Captain Wentworth by leaping from the steps of the Cobb. Needless to say if you’ve read the book, flirtation comes before the fall!

So how did Jane choose Lyme of all places as the setting for her last-published & most personal novel? As the J.A. Society’s website informs me, Jane visited Lyme on multiple occasions (1st at the age of 29 – quite the coincidence as I’ll be turning 29 four days before we arrive! I’ll take it as a sign!). The author expressed her high opinion of the town through her characters in Persuasion, singing some very high praise indeed!

Persuasion-2007-persuasion-2619145-400-266

“The scenes in its neighbourhood…with its high grounds and extensive sweeps of country, and still more, its sweet, retired bay, backed by dark cliffs, where fragments of low rock among the sands, make it the happiest spot for watching the flow of the tide, for sitting in unwearied contemplation; the woody varieties of the cheerful village of Up Lyme; and, above all, Pinny, with its green chasms between romantic rocks, where the scattered forest trees and orchards of luxuriant growth…where a scene so wonderful and so lovely is exhibited…these places must be visited, and visited again, to make the worth of Lyme understood.”

‘a very strange stranger it must be who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme to make him wish to know it better’  (from Persuasion)

You heard the woman. Lyme must be visited. And Bri & I can hardly wait to get to know the charms of Lyme better for ourselves. In fact, we are literally counting down the days (see Friday Countdowns!)

And we’re inviting you to join us! Follow our adventure as we hunt for literary buried treasure, walk the Cobb, frequent Lyme’s tea shops &… hmm, am I forgetting something?

Oh yes. Write!

It is, after all, a Writing Retreat. And how often do two writers get the chance to write where their literary hero wrote before them?

Lyme Regis, here we come!

Lyme regis cobb
The Cobb at Sunset

* Follow us via email for Writing Retreat updates & youtube links to our video blog so you can share the adventure & the inspiration with us!

Friday Countdown

It’s Mez here. Yes, that’s right. Separated across the Atlantic though Bri & I be, I’m here counting down in England as well. And I must say, this countdown has been an excellent exercise in meeting deadlines (one of the few ‘downsides’ of becoming a published author…so I’m told). Unfortunately, I must confess that I too am REALLY stretched to make this deadline… ie. I may have to pull some all-nighters ‘ere long. I haven’t done that since University! Things could get a little ugly…

But before I work myself into a right tizz, let’s stay calm and remember… there is yet time! To be precise, until our manuscript swap, we still have exactly: drum roll….

19 days!

On a much more celebratory note, Bri will be making her way here to my wet English turf for our annual writing retreat (stay tuned for the big location reveal coming up next week!) in a mere:

32 days!!

And last, but by no means least, I hope a great many of you out there have marked your diaries to join us for the story-spinning adventure that awaits in Novel in November. Can you believe it? It’s now only:

65 DAYS!!!

So much to look forward to! And we look forward to sharing it with you, our dear posse of readers, writers & tea drinkers… oh yes, there shall be abundant consumption of tea, as is the rule when Bri & I get together.

So, dear friends, prepare to write, drink & be merry!

 

 

Wednesday Writers’ Cafe: what’s your tune?

Last week Bri posted a Dragon Cloud on something that’s entirely familiar to us all, and yet effects each one of us in different, wonderful ways. The sound of Music!

Many a writer requires background music to create a rhythm or set a mood for writing, but in my experience, the music is never content to remain in the background. It has a life and a force of its own. It can quicken my pulse or put me at ease. It can bring back a memory &, with just a short string of notes, bring me to tears. And inevitably, it makes its way into my head, out through my finger tips, and into my story. Having a soundtrack changes my writing flow…I being to “watch” my own scenes unfold, like a film. Music brings my story to life!

No doubt about it, Music is a powerful agent & a potential key to unlocking creativity for us story-spinners. But it works a little differently for each one of us, so here’s our question for you, dear fellow writers:

What’s your writing tune?

What kind of music unlocks your creativity? Do you prefer gentle instrumentals, or banging beats? Or do you set Spotify on a station to suit the scene at hand? OR, are you a silent writer, preferring to compose your scene in peace before adding in the epic soundtrack?

Leave a comment below, & share your favourite writing tunes with the rest of us– maybe together we can compile the ultimate writing playlist for Novel in November!!!

Counting Words

I would like to take this time to talk about something near and dear to all writers…word counts! Both the bane of our existence and a way to mark our progress.

Now, I would love to be able to say, just write and you are done when you’ve said all you have to say! Unfortunately, that isn’t quite the way it is, as both Mez and I have found out. She is writing a middle grade book and the last I heard, she’s around 120,000 words and still not finished. I wrote a young adult book that finished out at 83,000 words. We both have a problem.

When I submitted my story, Curiosity, to agents, I was told several times it was too short for a young adult fantasy novel, but my characters were too old for middle grade. I plan on trying to lengthen it once I’m done with the second in the trilogy. Mez is already planning on shortening her novel once she’s done with the first draft. Basically, we just need to switch with each other! (On a side note, I think one of the problems with both of us is description. I tend to forget to describe things, Mez describes in detail. It’s one reason we edit each other’s works!)

The goal for Novel in November is 50,000 words. This works for some genres, especially for middle grade. However, it’s a little short for young adult and adult novels. My suggestion is to figure out what genre you are going for, then look at the word counts for some published works to get something to aim for.

Here are some websites and blogs about word counts worth checking out!

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/word-count-for-novels-and-childrens-books-the-definitive-post

http://commonplacebook.com/art/books/word-count-for-famous-novels/

http://www.betternovelproject.com/blog/word-counts/

http://www.betterstorytelling.net/thebasics/storylength.html

So don’t follow our example and try to get your word counts near where the should be for your genre! Are you ready yet for Novel in November??

 

Dragon Clouds-Music

 

I love how music can transport you to another place. How it can make everyday life a little more epic, just by listening to the right music. No matter how you feel, there’s music for that, and music can so easily intensify that feeling, whether it’s happy, sad, angry, excited. It’s a kind of magic, the way it affects us, like a spell where the ingredients are different sounds in the proper order. So if you are feeling uninspired, try listening to some music and letting a spell take hold.

Friday Countdown

Finally! I am reunited with my computer! Actually, I had my laptop with me all day, just not the charger! SO FRUSTRATING!! So I got NO writing done…and I only have

26

days left

to finish my first draft to give to Mez! It’s going to be SO close! I won’t even tell all of you how much I have left…it’s intimidating. But I’m past my stuck point, and things are moving again!!

And then there is the Writing Retreat, which is

39

days away.

I’m super excited to be going to England. I haven’t seen Mez in person in FOREVER!

Finally, Novel in November. I’m also really looking forward to trying this for the first time. November 1st is

74

days away.

So be thinking about it and if you’ll be joining us, don’t forget to sign up to get daily encouragement through the month of November!

I hope everyone has a great weekend and finds some time to do some writing. Good night all!

Wednesday Writers’ Café-

A writer sits at his desk, words flowing easily from his mind to his fingertips to his computer. Word after word, line after line, perfection appears on the screen. In no time, he has reached his quota for the day and he is able to spend the rest of his hours relaxing by the pool with a book. Because writing is easy and simple.

How may of you can relate? Yeah, me neither! Writing is difficult.

Let me repeat that.

WRITING IS DIFFICULT!!

What is the hardest part for you? Is it the planning? Researching? Can you write an awesome end, but the beginning is rewritten ten times? Does writing dialogue make you cringe, while description comes easily to you?

For me, it’s action scenes. Any fights or battles, especially ones with more than two characters. Whenever I have to write one, I feel like an ant staring at a wall, and if I can just get over it, the rest of the story will be waiting. But first, I have to get through the action scene that is scaring the daylights out of me.

What aspect of writing is the most difficult for you?

Fortunately, we live in an age where there is information about everything. If there is a part of writing you have a hard time with, check to see if there are any books, blogs, or websites to help you through. You are not alone in the struggle!

 

The Magic’s in the Details

When it comes to kids books, or kids for that matter, it truly is the simple things that count.

This week has been one great big crash course in remembering what it’s like to be a kid — an essential exercise for anyone so fool-hardy as to write for kids as her primary audience. They’re a tough crowd when it comes to judging whether a book is worth their very precious time and effort… at least that’s true of my five nephews and nieces whom i’ve had the delight of visiting in Spain this week. They are each of them ravenous readers (including 3-year-old David, though he gets a little help from his friends).

The Grant Gang’s bookshelves are double-stacked and overflowing with well-worn books covering just about every subject a kid could fancy under the moon — there are the Fancy Nancy and fairy books for 4-year-old Abigail, Andrew at 7 likes his pirates stories and anything with “potty humour”, and 10-year-old Anna, & Amelia, the oldest by one year, read just about ANYTHING they can get their hands one…. TWICE! This week it’s been the How to Train Your Dragon Series, along with a bit of Boxcar Children and Little House in the Prairie.

What I’ve observed is this: the books that make the cut, the books with the tattiest, most well-loved covers all share some special “it factor”, whether they be published 40 years ago or hot off the press this year. And my sneaking suspicion is that it’s this: they capture the magic of the simple wonders of childhood. You know, like those cast-off little scraps that go into the shoebox under the bed & somehow transform into treasures.

I can still open the shoebox in my mind and remember the delicious tidbits from my childhood reading that struck me then and staid with me ever after — Laura Ingles making candy out of maple syrup poured on fresh snow in Little House in the Big Woods... Anne from Anne of Green Gables entering a 3-legged race and finishing with a ribbon and a bossom friend… the deliciousness of her first Christmas party, getting to drink punch & act elegant… all part of the furniture of my childhood imagination.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a story with pizzazz. Give me wand-waving, dragon-riding, battle-waging any day, and I’ll lap it up. But even the best magical, epic tales triumph because of the little, simple details. What I love most about the Redwall series is not so much the battle-scenes (brilliant though they are) but the food! the minute details of every little forest dish prepared by loving mouse paws. Just the mention of Redwall, and I can taste it, smell it, fall into it – it’s magical!

And isn’t that just the way in childhood? At least that’s what a week with my nieces and nephews has reminded me. Oh the thrills of having blackberry ice cream with berries picked fresh on our walk. We might as well have fallen into Peter Rabbit’s world! A game of badminton on the lawn? No Wimbledon match could hold a candle to the epic competition between brothers and sisters! And a twilight walk through he park with a brand new pair of walky-talkies was as exhilarating as any spy thriller ever could be. And as for humour, “talking tummies” on our stomachs kept us entertained for days.

So I hope you’ll be encouraged, as I have been, that maybe our readers are not be so jaded by modern over-stimulation as we fear. Don’t underestimate a child’s undying fascination for life’s little adventure. The simplest forms of magic, I believe, still leave the longest lasting trace. As the old adage as it, “God is in the details.” When it comes to writing kids’ classics that will transcend generations, the magic is definitely in the details.

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