How Not to Stare at a Blank White Page


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I have been preparing to write a novel for some time now – making character webs, scribbling notes here and there.  I even have a 20 page chunk finished.  I wrote that over a year ago.

Really, things are going nowhere fast.  Then yesterday I was at Target and came across the book Ready, Set, Novel by Chris Baty, Lindsey Grant, and Tavia Stewart-Streit.  All three authors work for National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo, so I figured they would have some good advice.

National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

The book takes the form of a workbook, with sections on idea generating, character building, establishing plot etc.  The tone is a little tongue-in-cheek, I suppose, and at first I felt a bit silly writing in it (since I have taken countless classes on how to construct and write stories – shouldn’t I know how to by now?) but I have accomplished more since I got the book than in the past couple of years.  Maybe it is some sort of left-over conditioning from high school, but the fact that there are exercises and blank pages and instructions makes me feel like I have to fill them in.  As if it is an assignment.  It is amazing.

Besides that, some of the activities are very helpful and are things I would never have thought to do, like writing scenes from a character’s childhood – things that happened before the beginning of the novel.  They won’t even be included, but just having thought through them makes me feel so much better acquainted with my characters.  Another interesting exercise was putting your characters in crazy situations together that have nothing to do with the plot (like hypothetically trapping them in an elevator together).  It forces one to think about their mannerisms and personalities as a whole – not just how they will react to the events in your plot, but how they would react to other strange or dramatic occurrences in their lives.

To top it off, the end of the book includes coloring pages of famous authors in case you just get frustrated and need a break.  I don’t know that there has ever been a 21 year old that enjoyed coloring books more than I do.  I would recommend it to anyone who aspires to write a novel but feels stuck.  $17 well spent.


A Wonderful Blog for Writers and Artists


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So far, I have only posted two photographs to prompt writing inspiration.  This wonderful blog, Easy Street Prompts, has hundreds!  The pictures range from bizarre to beautiful to artsy to touching.  They also post groups of random interesting words and phrases.  I absolutely love it.  Check out the blog HERE.

Inspiration: Live


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I am just posting up a storm!  This is my last one for today.  I took this photo at Drunk Bay in St. John, Virgin Islands.  The beach has lots of rocks and interesting detritus and people often leave impromptu art there.  I thought this piece was beautiful and I wonder who made it – what is their story?  What brought them to that beach?  What life experiences do they have that made them want to convey this message to others?  It is a beautiful part of a person that they have left behind for others to experience in their own way.  Spark anything for you?  Let me know!  I would love to read it.

Concise Literary Spoilers – Hilarious


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I came across this fabulous literary tidbit through Page-Turner, the literary blog of the New Yorker.  It is a list of super concise spoilers for famous novels – see it here.  It made me laugh, especially the spoiler for Catcher in the Rye – “Holden doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.”

My Grandfather and “The Tutor”


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I have been neglecting the blog for the past few days because I was visiting my grandparents in Connecticut – no WiFi.  I was off the grid, so to speak.  My grandfather has been in the hospital with a fractured hip and complications from his cancer.  He looks so different now, with clouded, unfocused eyes and incoherent whispering.  He thought I was my eight year old cousin.  

As a young man, he was a dashing Naval officer, and charmed my grandmother with ease.  She was a popular young woman in town – she went to the prom all four years of high school, with a different date each year.  She saw his picture in the newspaper and was captivated.  His blue eyes were always sparking with mischief and flirtation and his smile was infectious.  He was a shameless flirt, and still is – the other day a young nurse was feeding him and he placed his hand on her thigh.  I laughed – that’s grandpa.  He is a joker, always telling me he can’t wait for my wedding to Prince Harry and teasing my grandmother about various trifles.  He used to give whisker kisses – rubbing his stubbly cheek against mine and leaving it rosy.  He is a great man, a veteran, and full of life.  I hope he gets that back soon.


Anyways, while spending most of my time at a hospital, I decided that I would take a break from my serious literary reading (Swamplandia By Karen Russell) and read something more deliciously frivolous.  I started The Tutor by Peter Abrahams.  I was pleasantly surprised – the novel was an example of really excellent suspense genre fiction.

Cover of "The Tutor"

Cover of The Tutor

The plot was truly gripping.  I guessed what was going on very early in the book (perhaps because I watch and read so much suspense that I am familiar with the conventions of the genre) but I still found it difficult to put down.  More remarkable than that, however, was the specificity and uniqueness of some of the characters Abrahams created.  The little girl, Ruby, is not simply a throw-away, conventional child.  She has many unusual quirks, like her experimentation with hairstyles and her love of the somewhat obscure sport of archery.  She is clever and inquisitive for a girl of her age and lives her life by the principles and ideas of Sherlock Holmes, turning all of the strange goings-on in her family into a “case”.  My favorite character, however, was Julian, the nefarious tutor.  He was written in a way that always left me feeling uncomfortable.  His voice was well-established, from his patterns of thinking to his insistence on proper English.  When answering questions in the affirmative, he never uses the colloquial “yeah” or even “yes”, but always says “correct”.  His pretentiousness, alarming perceptiveness, and intellect created a cool, chilling villain.  I would recommend the book to anyone looking for some gripping summer reading!

Something Beautiful


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I love things that shouldn’t be beautiful but are.  Last night I was driving home when a firefly hit my windshield.  Its body spattered across the glass, still glowing.  It was as if Jackson Pollack were painting with starlight.  Miraculously, it stayed lit for the next few moments, silhouetted against the darkness outside.  After a while, the light started sputtering and dimming slowly.  I watched it burn out.  It was amazing.

Fireflies 4

Fireflies 4 (Photo credit: ShutterSparks)

Jack Kerouac: The Mad Ones


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I found a scrap of paper in my desk today that had this quote on it, one of my favorites.  

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” 
― Jack KerouacOn the Road

This makes me want to be a little mad and to live life with intensity, conviction, and individuality.  I enjoy people who are a bit crazy.  It keeps things interesting.  I also found these Jack Kerouac quotes today that made me smile:

“Don’t touch me, I’m full of snakes.”

“I am going to marry my novels and have little short stories for children.”


Photograph: Corbis


Inspiration: Abandoned


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Need some writing inspiration?  I have a lot of interest in visual arts, especially photography, so images often inspire my work.  I took this picture from the High Line park in New York City.  As I mentioned a couple posts ago, I love all things gritty, dilapidated, and forgotten.  This picture gives me so many ideas.  Why was it abandoned?  What was in it before?  What might be going on in there now?  Meetings of some sort?  Is it the hide-out of some sort of criminal?  Who created the graffiti on the side and why?  The questions an image like this can generate, for me, are endless.  I hope you enjoy my photographic efforts.  If it sparks anything for you, let me know!  I would love to read it.

Looking at a Clock


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This is one of my best poetry efforts, which is the product of a semester of revisions.  My professor was of the tough-love variety.  In my opinion, they can often be the best type – one works harder than usual to impress the professor (or spite them by being successful, as in my case).  I have recently revisited it and done a bit more work.  Any (constructive) thoughts or comments are welcome.

Astronomical Clock (Astronomical Dial), Prague...

Looking at a Clock

A first cry – of dismay perhaps

to the man and his aggressive swinging briefcase:

alone with the acrid smell of sanitization,

impersonal stiff white sheets, and burning machinery.

Silhouettes of scrolling hands burn into her eyes.

Is it sliding stacks of documents that obscure your view?

Eternity holds its breath.  Stopped.

A man and a woman and a fist

know the cycles and the song.

In their four eyes, four reflections of the clock,

and the only moving things are silent snowflakes.

I know the rhythms of my world:

a floor scattered with broken glass, shards of breath;

the children’s eyes fixed on the hand

overlooking the quiet square in the moonlight.

The clock counts down, gloomily waiting

as icicles melt and drip.  A somber symphony drifts upward.

The golden gears give off a faint industrial hum.

Fresh Eyre: An Introduction



In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, when writing, one must “use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.”  Most likely, you are a total stranger to me, so I will endeavor to make the time you spend reading my blog worthwhile.  To ensure that you’ll be interested in what I am posting, I’ll tell you a bit about myself and my interests to start off.

I am a recent college graduate with a BA in English/creative writing.  I write primarily prose, fiction especially, but I dabble in poetry at times.  I hope to apply to an MFA program eventually and ultimately to become a published novelist.  I write a lot about suburban dysfunction, family dynamics, and mental disorders.  Compulsions like hoarding and OCD fascinate me.  I like writing about and exploring gritty topics – to me, there’s glitter in the gutter.

The Bookshelf of Sherlock Holmes

The Bookshelf of Sherlock Holmes (Photo credit: bcostin)

I have been a voracious reader since I was young and am interested in avariety of genres, from literary fiction and flash fiction to poetry to genre fiction, especially mystery/thriller.  My favorite books include The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and of course, Jane Eyre.  I also admire the work of many authors, including Jonathan FranzenVladimir NabokovJeffrey Eugenides, and Jorge Luis Borges.  I always have a healthy pile of books to read and at the moment it includes: Too Much Happiness by Alice MunroThe Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan DoyleThe Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov, and What They Do in the Dark by Amanda Coe (I saw her read an excerpt of the book at my local Barnes and Noble and it was wonderful.  Her creation of a child narrator’s voice was masterful).

Why choose to include Jane Eyre’s name in the title of my blog?  At this transitional period in my life, I find that Jane’s character and actions reflect the way I want to move forward.  She survived through hardships and had the courage and initiative to go after the career she wanted and to start her own life.  She is honest, strong willed, and sticks to her convictions (hopefully, if my fiance lied to me and had a hidden wife in his attic, I wouldn’t cave in and agree to be his mistress.)  Anyways, I am going to use this space to chronicle my reading habits, writing projects, sources of inspiration, and interesting literary tidbits that I come across.  Interested?  Check back for new posts!