A party that was out of this WORLD!

A few weeks ago I attended a writers retreat with dozens of fabulous, talented women. I asked the organizer what I could do to help. She twiddled her thumbs, trying to think of something, because she’s very organized and had everything under control.

“Decorate and come up with a theme,” she said.

Interesting, because the cabin is set in a stunning backdrop and needs no added decor.

But I knew the theme I wanted the moment she asked for one.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you might know that I love to travel and collect globes.

One of my favorite quotes is from one of my favorite authors.

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“Not all those who

Wander

are lost.” 

-Tolkien

So that was my theme.

Authors travel. We travel in time machines, through  worm holes, throughout history, even to unchartered fantastical worlds. Our writing takes us to places where no others venture to go. But are we wandering . . . lost? Are we a crazy lot of people with our heads in the clouds?

No!

In my humble opinion, we are the ones who keep the world sane. We restore balance to a world that sometimes seems hopeless. Man, I love to read. Books have changed my life many, many times. But I love to write more. I hope to write something someday that changes someone for the better. Authors write to educate, entertain, or uplift. I hope to do all three at some point in my life.

I write because so many times I don’t know what to say. I write to sort out political injustices or religious grievances. I write to explore relationships and to kill off the villains in my personal life.

I write so that I can travel to all the places I wish to go, both in reality and in imagination.

I came up with an activity idea for the writers retreat. I bought a world map and attached it to a large piece of cardboard, then hung it on the wall with a bunch of push pins. I made a sign that said,

“Where in the World does your writing take you?”

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I loved to see where everyone traveled to when they write. If it was fantasy, I had them pin where they were basing the culture or landscape off of in our world.

It sparked many conversations between these authors that in many cases, didn’t know one another. “Oh! I wonder who else is writing a novel set in Hawaii.” “Look, someone is writing a novel set in Nepal. I’ve always wanted to go there!” “I wonder why that pin is in the middle of the ocean. Maybe it’s set on a boat or the city Atlantis. I’m going to go ask around and find out.” Conversations like those made me smile.

Here are a few other things I did for the writers retreat. These could also be altered for a birthday party or a farewell party for someone moving away.

I made about thirty of these wooden plaques. Yes, I love writers that much!

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It was a lot of work, but I wanted them to have something to take home. I collect maps and atlases, so I cut a bunch of maps down to size, sent them to the printer, and had them print the Tolkien quote on top. I shredded the paper edges, mod-podged them on pre-cut wood, then stained everything. If you want more information on how to make these, you can ask in the comment section. But it was very much like my process of my tree painting, shown here.

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I also love plants and brought a whole bunch of orchids and hydrangeas with me. These were for give-a-ways and drawings. I lined the pots with plastic to collect water, wrapped the pots and liners in map fabric, then tied with a piece of twine. My favorite part was that I printed a whole bunch of inspiring quotes on scraps of atlas, stuck them on skewers, and put them in the plants. All of them related to the theme and were easy to find because Pinterest is my favorite site ever! Here is my quote board on Pinterest.

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I also made atlas wreaths.

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And atlas banners.

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Here we are staying up past 2:00 am playing games. So much fun!

But the most important part was the treat table. I mean, writers need fuel. Right?

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My treat contribution were those atlas pages, which I shaped into cones, and then filled with candy. So easy and transportable to all those nooks and crannies that we authors like to find and write in!

Well, there you have it. Now you know how writers party.

  • Tara 🙂

First Liners – How to ‘pick-up’ on your readers. *wink, wink*

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I was tagged in a writing challenge to share the first line in my first three chapters on my work in progress. I chose to share from one of my YA fantasy novels.

First sentences are everything. They set the tone, the voice, the setting — they must hook the reader. Some people mull over and stress about this solid first line for months, maybe years. The daunting first sentence can become a wall that makes it so you never even want to start your novel. My advice would be to start anyway. Don’t think about fancy phrasing, or perfect eye catching action. Just start and let the words flow. Then go back and fix things. Personally, I love the itchy fingers when I think of a new idea. Sure I’ve written and re-written first lines over and over again, but this was usually after I’ve finished the book or the chapter.

The best advise I have received about a opening sentence, was the critiquing during a publication primer group. I also entered into a first chapter competition at the same time, and the feedback from the judges were exactly the same.

Below is my old first sentence, followed by the new first sentence. See if you can catch the difference.

Chapter 1
Old:
We ran, dodging cornstalks as if they were spears rooting into the land.
New:
I stood on a bluff overlooking our lower pastures. Against the scarlet horizon, chaos erupted from the small town.

I was dead set on the original sentence, thinking it was perfect to start with action. But the advise and feedback I received was that I needed a setting. “We ran” didn’t tell the reader anything about where they were, or what time frame we were in. In fact, the word “spears” made them think that the setting could be in ancient times, which was totally not the case. After that was brought to my attention, it was fun for me to create a one page scene before my characters ran. It still starts out with plenty of action, but my characters are witnessing it, rather then running from it.

Here are my first lines from Chapters Two and Three. (I’ve switched points of view in Chapter two, just so you know)

Chapter 2
“Master Caul, it is time to serve your birthday cake,” a timid voice carried from the doorway. As I glared out the window, my fingers gripped around the tapestry with one hand. I lifted the other to wave her away.
Chapter 3
Stepping out of the Ark and onto the ground above, grey ash fell soft like snow-flakes on a melancholy night.

* Now for my favorite first sentences in all of history, and I swear if my husband said this to me as a cheesy pick-up line when we first met, I would have said “yes!” right then and there. This shows a little glimpse into how much I love Tolkien. This is from The Hobbit. These opening sentences have everything; setting, senses, voice, character, and if you know the rest of the story which is filled with adventure, how perfectly humble it is to start inside a hole in the ground. It leaves us asking “what is a hobbit? I must read more to find out.” That my friends, is a hook.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down or eat: it was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort.”

If you’ve got a first line you’d like to share, I’d love to read it in the comments below 🙂

– Tara