Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Stumbling into Inspiration

On Saturday, some friends and I ventured to Cordoba, a smallish city about an hour from Sevilla.  Since we were only there a day, we visited all the usual tourist sights:  the Mezquita, the Puente, the Arab Baths, etc.  While those were great, the most memorable parts of the trip were unplanned, as is usually the case.  I love adventure, so I was thrilled to stumble into some amazing experiences.

Check out this mill.  It dates back to the Romans, and though the wheel has been replaced, the base is all original.  How cool is that?  And if you look to the right, you can see the famous bridge in the background.

It seems that very few people get this close to the mill.  Most view it from a street above (it's to the left), but we decided to venture down some old stairs into the "wilderness."  It wasn't far from those stairs, but by the time we reached it, our shoes were caked with mud, the bottoms of our jeans soaked through.  Oh well.  Definitely worth it.

But not nearly as cool as what we stumbled upon a few hours later…

A medieval gypsy market!  If you've seen Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (I still haven't gotten around to reading the book, so I can't speak for that), then you'll know the Festival of Fools.  It was pretty much like that.  The colors, the food, the costumes!  Since we're in Spain, a lot of the people are actually gypsies.  Not like a Renaissance Faire back in the States.

One of the stalls was selling herbs with special purposes.  You know, to cure certain illnesses, relieve stress, clear the mind, etc.  There were hundreds of them!  Had I more time, I definitely would have liked to research.  Since historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to write, I'm often scribbling about old medicines.

Just look at these masks!  They're gorgeous.  I've never written about a masquerade, but I've always wanted to.  And whenever my writer friends bounce ideas off me, and they mention a dance or ball of some sort, I always encourage the masquerade.  Hmm…I wonder if I can work a masquerade into my WIP ;)

Ah, the bird.  Not just a bird.  A peregrine falcon who was keeping company with other falcons and a few owls.  I got especially excited when I saw her because the MC of my current WIP has a pet falcon just like this one!  Of course, I took two dozen photos of her.  That's called research :)

What about you?  Have you ever accidentally stumbled upon inspiration or spur-of-the-moment research?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Blind Date with a Book

I saw this on Tumblr.  Each book was wrapped in paper, on which was written a few words which described the subject.  So you literally cannot judge the book by its cover.  Kind of neat, but I do love cover art :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Study Abroad: Real Settings

¡Hola!  Si no ya sabéis, estoy en Sevilla, España.

That's Spanish for "Hello!  If you don't already know, I am in Seville, Spain."  We arrived last Tuesday for our semester abroad, and so far, it's been excellent.  The food, the flamenco, the winding streets…

Nowadays, lots of college students will spend some time abroad.  At many schools, studying abroad an unspoken expectation.  No doubt it's a valuable experience for everyone, but it's especially awesome for writers.

Sure, it's great to play the part of "expatriate artist," like Hemingway or Fitzgerald, and sit in a bar or café while penning the next Great American Novel--but let's also be honest with ourselves.  What with challenging classes (sometimes in another language), endless social activities, and all the excitement of a foreign city, our writing time is probably going to significantly decrease.  I know mine has.

Yet at the same time, I'm considering this entire semester as writing research.  Here I am in a completely new setting, surrounded by a new culture, and it's the perfect opportunity to absorb an atmosphere that could easily end up in a story.  Personally, my favorite books all have unique settings:  the little Colombian town of Macondo, or the streets of Pamplona, or the plantations of Georgia (One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Sun Also Rises, and Gone with the Wind, respectively).

I'm sick of New York.  I'm sick of London.  I'm sick of L.A.  Give me some place exotic.  I read for experiences I can't have in my real life, so the less likely I am to travel to a certain setting, the better.

Take Daughter of Smoke and Bone, for example.  While I'm not big on paranormal romance,  I loved the two main settings:  Prague and Marrakesh.  Would the plot have changed much if Laini Taylor set her novel in London?  No, not at all.  But seriously, I've read so many stories set in and around London, I feel like I vacation there every summer.  Prague?  Marrakesh?  Now those are entirely new.

One of the reasons I chose to study in Seville was the setting.  As an English major, it makes much more sense for me to go to England.  In terms of classes, it would probably be better.  But Seville, while crawling with Americans, is a city unlike any I've ever visited.  Narrow streets, lively plazas, a beautiful river…My writer's mind is running wild!  No lie, in this past week alone, I've figured out ways to include a flamenco dancer, gitanas (gypsies), and the city itself in my WIP.

Also, if you haven't already realized, I'm big on setting, so expect more posts about it :)

For now, enjoy these photos of Seville, Spain :)

calle (street) in Seville.

Look at that bridge!  (I've yet to cross it.)

The gardens of the Alcazar (a palace).  If you're a fantasy person, and write about palaces regularly, why don't you try this:  Instead of the usual "Cinderella's Castle" or Gothic fortress, give it some pizazz.  I'm talking bright colors, arches, and tropical gardens like this one.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Travel Days = No Fun

I'm sorry, but this "Writing Blog" is now a "Writing/Travel Blog."  Theoretically I could have a separate blog for my travels in Sevilla and beyond, but considering I barely update this one, I figured it's better this way.

After over 24 hours of travel (I lost count of the actual number.  It's something like 32) I am finally in Sevilla, Spain.  Arrived last night :)

So, what was travel like?  Well, I started in Philadelphia and flew to New York.  Yup, a 25 minute flight.  (But for some reason, it saved me $1500, so I guess I can't complain).  Then I sat in JFK for five hours and took off at 7:50.  Flying, flying, flying, until we landed in Madrid at 8:10 local time (2:10 in the States).  Great!  I had four hours before my next flight.  Plenty of time to get my luggage, shuttle on over to another terminal, check in and recheck the luggage, and find my gate.  I also managed to meet up with some friends.

But alas, I knew everything was going too smoothly.  For some reason, I was given a "Standby" boarding pass.  And just my luck, there was no room on the plane.

As Customer Service quickly figured out, I was supposed to be on that plane.  They put me on the next flight and gave me 250 euros.  Woot!  I had to wait in Madrid for 6 more hours, but while waiting, I made met some students who, turns out, are in my study abroad program.  Hooray new friends!

That's all for now.  I'll update more once I have photos!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I'm an Intern!

I've been doing this all day.  (Fun Fact:  Rapunzel is my favorite Disney princess)
Guess what?  I am now an intern at the Booker Albert Literary Agency!  I am so excited, but as my psychologist-mother likes to point out, I'm low-affect-intensity, which means that instead of screaming with joy, I express my excitement by doing something like this > > > > > > > > >

So you'll have to trust me when I say I'm really excited.  For about three years now I've wanted to be a literary agent, so now I have my dream internship.  Wanna know something even better?  It's remote, which means I don't have to commute to New York!  And since Seville, Spain will be home for the next six months, that's fantastic.  I can read queries, manuscripts, etc. at the table of an outdoor café, all while sipping Spanish coffee and eating churros.  Yeah, I know.  My life is awesome right now :)

I can't wait to work with these two amazing agents:  Jordy Albert and Brittany Booker.  I look forward to learning about agenting, and I am so grateful for such a wonderful opportunity!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Blog!

I'm just starting a whole bunch of new projects with the new year.  How exciting!

Here's the story.  I was thinking about this blog and how oftentimes I feel as though I have nothing new to say.  What general writing advice I offer can be found on a million other websites, all of which I greatly admire.  And those websites are written by literary agents, editors, published authors who know the business.  Compared to them, what do I know?

Actually, it turns out I know something pretty unique, at least when it comes to writing blogs:  how to be a writer in college.  Now that's something I consider myself expert on.

As a full-time student, I know it's difficult to find time to write.  Yet at the same time, there's so much inspiration on and off campus, not to mention great opportunities like fiction and poetry classes, writing groups, literary magazines, etc. that it's a shame to push writing from your mind for four years.  There are a ton of ways to incorporate it into your life while also maintaining good study habits and a rocking social life, and that's what I know how to do.

Today I launched Dorm Room Writers, a writing blog for college students, by college students.  Right now, it's still in infancy (I made it about three hours ago), but I'm hoping to collaborate with other student writers in order to make it a success.  If you know any college students, professors, or even high schoolers starting to look at schools, please refer them to the site!  Not in college anymore?  That's fine, too!  Stop by, check it out, follow :)