Elizabeth: Stay Curious

It has been a long and busy week and it’s only Tuesday.  The week has included planes, cabs, and training sessions – which is great – but what it hasn’t included is quality time to work on the post I had planned for today.

Désolé.

Instead, since I have a job interview tomorrow afternoon that I need to prepare for, I’ll leave you with the above quote from Dorothy Parker that I came across the other day.

So, what have you been curious about lately?

Have you learned anything new recently?

Jilly: Hits of Happy–Atlas Obscura

Do you have a favorite website or other go-to place that’s not strictly useful but makes your world a little bit better or richer?

Most of the newsletters I subscribe to are from favorite authors or are somehow related to writing and publishing—practical, useful subjects like aspects of craft, or marketing, or developments in the industry. The big exception is Atlas Obscura, which I find invaluable in a very different way. Their newsletter is the opposite of practical. It’s where I get my five-minute daily hit of wonder that transports me, stimulates my imagination and keeps me in the kind of mental space that inspires fantastic worldbuilding.

Atlas Obscura is an online magazine that showcases unusual and obscure places and objects around the globe. There are fabulous photographs, fascinating editorials on history, science, food, travel and exploration, and even experiences and guided trips.

Here are just a few of the many articles and images I’ve browsed lately:

  • Abandoned places in the United States
  • Secret apartments in New York City libraries
  • The U.S. Army’s extensive fossil collection, from trilobytes to dinosaurs
  • ATM machines in Singapore that dispense frozen salmon fillets
  • The typography of biscuit lettering
  • Winning cakes from an architectural baking contest in Melbourne, Australia
  • Elvis’s 1967 Lincoln Continental, Kurt Cobain’s uncashed royalty check and George Washington’s dentures

The above examples barely scratch the surface of the breadth and depth of the weird and the wondrous to be found on Atlas Obscura. The website is searchable, but for me that kind of defeats the purpose. I’m there to be surprised and inspired, though I’m delighted to enjoy the quality writing and solid information once something catches my attention.

They also have a Youtube channel, a calendar, a journal, and a couple of books—Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders, and The Atlas Obscura Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid.

I really look forward to my bites of weird and wonderful. Whatever else my day holds, I know I’ll spend a few minutes indulging in brain candies of the most unexpected kind, and I never know where those treats will lead me or how they might inspire me later.

Atlas Obscura is a delightful way to fill the creative well. It also serves to remind me that there’s plenty of joy to be found in our world, if you take a moment to look for it.

Where do you find a hit of happy? Any recommendations?

Elizabeth: Hidden in plain sight

As is often the case, I had one thing in mind for today’s post and then – squirrel! – something else caught my attention.

In this case, it was an article in the New York Times that I read over dinner.  It had the enticing title, If Only These Walls (and Bookcases) Could Talk, so naturally I had to read it.

As I may have mentioned (a time or two), I’m a big fan of books.  Not just of reading them, but having them.  The physical dead-tree versions with their smells of ink and paper and (in some cases) old dusty leather bindings.  Fiction, reference, cooking, travel, the Napoleonic Wars and much more can all be found in the room designated as my home library.  Technically, it’s a spare bedroom but the bed is long gone, though in a pinch, I guess one could sleep sitting up in the big comfy reading chair.

But I digress.

Being a fan of books means needing a place to put them, preferably in an organized, easily accessible fashion (unless one is like 8Lady Kay who apparently gets rid of books after reading them – gasp!).

My home library currently boasts a wall of floor-to-ceiling shelves (thanks to some help from my brother), but there are still a number of books that have been relegated to boxes, pending the building of even more shelves.

That task has been on the ToDo list for . . . .well let’s just say “quite a while.” Continue reading

Michaeline: Twitter Games Weekend, Part 2!

A young fortuneteller sees a male shadow with a gun in her crystal ball.

I see . . . I see . . . I see Humphrey Bogart in your future! “Here’s looking at you, kid.” (Slumps over.) Image via Wikipedia Commons

Yesterday, we took a look at our influences from the past with the “Who are Your Literary Parents” game. Today, let’s move our past into the future with a new game from Bitter Script Reader, who says: “Good news! Your next pilot’s been ordered to series before you’ve written it.

“The catch: it’s pre-cast with your celebrity crushes when you were 13. So how are you building a show around that?”

I said:
“OMG! They got Robin Williams! OK, it’s going to be a Continue reading

Michaeline: Twitter Games Weekend!

A French family tree for some Zola characters.

So, what does your literary family look like? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

This has been a very good week for Twitter games for writers – games that boost creativity and make you think about your writing roots, and what you love. It’s nice to take a break and remember the joy of writing, so let’s take a few minutes this weekend to have a little fun.

Today’s game is from Amber Sparks, who writes: “Who are your literary parents? You only get two, duh. Any gender of course.”

(-: And then she promptly breaks the rules with: Continue reading

Jilly: Visiting the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood

Will you have a moment to spare on Wednesday? I know that’s three days away, and I expect you have a million things to do between now and then, but I have a favor to ask. If you remember, and if you’re willing, when Wednesday comes around please drop by the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood blog and say hi to me over there. I have a guest post and I’d really like to avoid looking like Jilly No-Mates 😉 .

The Rubies are the RWA Golden Heart Class of 2009. They’ve been writing, publishing, and blogging for the last decade and they’re still going strong. They have an annual contest, a winter writing festival, and every summer they schedule a series of guest posts for the current Golden Heart finalists. This year’s GH selection has been great fun (see below), and there are more posts to come over the next three weeks.

On Wednesday I’ll be talking about my GH finalling story The Transformation of Alexis Doe and the prequel I’m planning to publish first—The Seeds of Power, otherwise known as Christal’s book. I think I’m the only fantasy writer among the paranormal finalists, so my blurbs sound quite out there compared to the others. I’m more than a bit nervous.

To whet your appetite, here are the interesting and varied guest bloggers so far, and thumbnail descriptions of their stories based on their posts: Continue reading

Nancy: Revisiting Story Brain

This week, I’m sorry to say, I’m a bit overwhelmed and a bit under the weather. While I don’t have the energy or mental focus to write a new blog post, I thought I’d share this one that I wrote two years ago, in which I discuss how stories mold our minds and attitudes, and can ultimately change the world.

How Story Shapes Our Brains

How long did the last fiction book you finished stick with you? What about the romance or mystery or classic you read over and over again as a teen? How about the books your parents read to you before you were old enough to read on your own? Turns out, the fiction we read might just be making us more engaged, empathetic humans according to researchers studying the brain through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We’ve known this for a while now.

In a New York Times article published more than five years ago, Annie Murphy Paul reported: “The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated…Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.” Wow, heady stuff, you authors out there. Continue reading