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  • Writing Made Easy(-ish): Researching Is A Virtue

    Writing Made Easy(-ish): Researching Is A Virtue

    By Dorian Randall Narratives aren’t just thoughts, conversations, and mere words on a page; they were once nuggets of an idea that required research. Whether you’re delving into family history, current events, or developing a world of fiction, researching is one of the most important tools to crafting your story. Check out these five avenues for researching a topic and a few writing prompts to get you started. Get your pens/keyboards ready! Personal Experience While remembering your favorite childhood toy or a difficult time in your life may not seem like research, if you think about it, it actually is. You are a walking hard drive of experiences with thousands of days’ worth of data. A memory can be the catalyst for building a story. If you used to write in a diary or journal, take a look at what you thought, felt, heard, or saw at a given time. You’d be surprised at how many narratives can come from everyday experiences. Writing prompt: When was the last time you were truly confused? Take ten minutes and write the first memory that comes to mind. 2. Read your favorite writer(s). Toni Morrison. Wentworth Miller. Abi Morgan. Ava DuVernay. Sade. These are a few of the writers I always turn to for an awe inspiring read or to draw inspiration in developing my own writing style. They have all made an impact on my understanding of fiction and non-fiction writing. Remember that an author isn’t just one who writes books; Journalists, songwriters, essayists, screen and television writers, and others are masters at spinning narratives that inspire storytelling. Read any and everything that speaks to you. Writing prompt: Look at your bookshelf, playlist, and web browser history. Whose work do you read or listen to the most? This a strong indicator you love this artist’s work. Take a passage from your favorite story or verse from one of you favorite songs and re-write it in your own style and perspective. 3. Archival Institutions Katy Simpson Smith visited the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to research personal letters and documents for her novel The Story of Land and Sea. Many journalists regularly comb through public records at local courthouses to craft articles. From the local library to historical societies and state archives, your community is brimming with venues to research information past and present. Read more…

  • Post-Mother’s Day Reads

    Post-Mother’s Day Reads

    By: Dorian Randall Mother’s Day has come and gone, but every day is a good day to celebrate motherhood! As the actress Jada Pinkett-Smith once said, “Your mother is your pulse to the world.” And nothing can bring you to life like a good read. Whatever you’re in the mood for, I’m sure these recommendations will get your creative juices going, lock you in a trance for a few hours, and help you remember that mothers (or motherly figures) aren’t just mothers; they’re also women evolving every day. Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts I haven’t read this one in a while, so it will be nice picking up this tearjerker that helped me appreciate the value of motherhood. Novalee Nation finds herself seventeen, pregnant, afraid of the number seven, and abandoned by her boyfriend at a nearby Walmart. With no money and no place to go, Novalee secretly lives in the store until a good Samaritan saves her when she goes into a difficult labor. Thereafter, hijinks, self-discovery, and love spill out for a young mother who never expected anything good to happen to her. Grab some tissues and curl up with this heart-warming and hilarious read!     Jewel by Bret Lott As a native Mississippian, I’m somewhat biased! This southern tale set in 1943 follows Jewel, a wife and mother in the backwoods of Mississippi as she learns how to navigate motherhood with an unexpected pregnancy at age 40. When Brenda Kay is born, the last of six children, Jewel knows something is different. The baby is later diagnosed with down syndrome in a time when little was known about the condition. Sit back and enjoy this well-written story of an enduring love that could be nothing but unconditional.     Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty If you loved the show, then the book is a must read. This hit follows three women in the various stages of child rearing and romantic relationships, all  linked by their love for their children, the desire for a different life, and a murder. Closely held secrets begin to come out like cats out of bags as these women try to make peace with their own personal truths. Treat yourself to a twisted plot, strong characters, and an ending you would never believe. Read more…

  • The Power of Words

    The Power of Words

    by Morgan Dziura  Words on pages. That’s essentially what books are. A book is birthed from someone’s decision to write a story. The writer had an idea, thought about it endlessly, drafted scenes, and proofread. Plotlines were scrapped, stories were rewritten. Some characters may have met their fates and didn’t even make it into the finished product. Dialogue may have been changed, and with it, the point of the story. It takes time and effort to craft a book, but the payoff is worth it. For an author, having people read your book is exhilarating. For the reader, it can be just as thrilling.        Books can transport us to scenarios and let us escape the mundane. A story can enthrall and take us places we’ve only ever dreamed about, make us feel. It’s just words on a page, but these thoughts have the power to provoke so many emotions. It’s fascinating how someone’s words can delight, sadden, and even enrage a reader. They let us use our imagination and see things from other points of view. We can’t help but imagine ourselves in the character’s shoes, see ourselves in her situation. “Losing” ourselves in a book is more than just a phrase; words can take us into the unknown. To escape, all one has to do is turn the page.   Books begin with a thought. This thought turns into, quite simply, words on pages. These words become a live narrative that stir a variety of emotions. It all starts with the motivation to write down an idea and turn it into something more. Words a powerful: it’s amazing what putting them on pages can do. Read more…

  • If You Don’t Like It…

    If You Don’t Like It…

    by Dorian Randall I probably don’t either. You don’t have to like everything you read. Some classics and recent releases don’t do anything for me. In a culture where everything has to be the best show you’ve ever seen, the best car you could ever drive, and even the best book you’ve ever read, there’s pressure to align with popular opinion. I’ve seen offense rear its ugly head when someone isn’t keen on the latest trend like her peers. While we should respect others’ narrative tastes, styles, and preferences, it’s okay to not like the latest bestseller or a renowned work in the Western literary canon. Don’t worry; you’re not alone. You have a right to love genre hybrids, creative non-fiction, and the good old escapist read. You also have the right to not like some of it, and that’s okay. It’s simple. Read what speaks to you and put down what doesn’t. As an avid reader recently told me, don’t continue to invest in a book you know you don’t like. You aren’t required to commit to what doesn’t speak to you. If you’re part of a book club and a fellow reader (or even you) recommends a book that is missing a well-developed plot, has weak characterization, and has a less than stellar ending, stop reading it. (Immediately!) If you borrowed your best friend’s favorite read, but the first twenty pages fell flat, and you haven’t picked it up after a month, give the book back. Whether you know it or not, you’re a critic. You may not have a syndicated column, a blog, or a Youtube channel, but your opinion about what you give your time to matters, even if it only matters to you. This isn’t a license to pan a work just because; writing is a practice worthy of respect. However, you do reserve the right to state that you don’t like a piece and why. Our time is taken up with many responsibilities. Our eyes and ears are constantly bombarded with the flashing lights of what’s new and hot. Your time is precious. Don’t waste it on a narrative that doesn’t do anything for you. Read more…