Throughout 2016 there’s been a lot of importance placed on learning and practicing self-care. The basic idea of self-care is doing nice things for yourself to recharge your mind, body, and soul. So what does this have to do with writers in particular? For me, when I am well taken care of as a person, I am a better writer. In addition to taking care of myself as a person, there are steps I can take to specifically care for the writer in me, and I’d like to share some of those tips.

  • Read what makes you feel good. Sometimes when I’ve had my head in my own work for too long I start to get annoyed with what I’m writing about. Sound familiar at all? That’s your cue to take a break, and read something else. Anything that’s a change will do, whether it’s re-reading Harry Potter or a new novel a friend told you about.
  • Don’t edit yourself right away. Whether it’s a final paper, or a poem for workshop, the first step is not writing well, the first step is just writing. If you tend to get stuck on editing grammar or word choice before you even have your full idea on paper, this could be extra important for you. The goal is to make time and a safe space for all of your ideas to come out. Your ideas don’t have to be good right away, but you do need to get them out of your head before you start editing.
  • Jessica BornMake your space happy. If your ideal writing space involves candles and Instagram-worthy latte creations, go for it. If it involves cocooning yourself in five blankets on the couch with a thermos of tea, do it up. Bonus points if you can frequently re-create that happy space whenever it’s time to write. Happy space, happy writer.
  • Stop comparing. I give you permission to visualize your inner critic and shut it up by whatever means possible. This goes farther than just not editing yourself on the first go-round. Stop comparing your writing to other writers’ work. Quit telling yourself that you should be better, and don’t beat yourself up for not being able to write like you should, or at all. If it’s a bad day, forgive yourself and try again tomorrow. Life happens at your own pace.

As with any self-care practice, you learn what works for you. It might be all, or none, of my suggestions here. The best thing you can do is start somewhere, and decide what you like best from there on out. Hopefully with these tips in mind, next time you’re in a writing slump you’ll be able to step back, love yourself a little, and get back to it. Happy writing!

– Jessica Born

Many people may not recognize the name Roald Dahl. For those of you who don’t know, Roland Dahl is the author of several very successful children’s books, some of which include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda. Many of Dahl’s books have been turned into highly popular movies.

Roald Dahl had an influence on my life through his books, particularly through the book Matilda.

When I was younger, it wasn’t the coolest thing to read by yourself instead of playing on the playground, or spending a whole Saturday stored inside your room turning page after page. While the majority of the time I didn’t care what other kids thought, I still questioned my favorite hobby from time to time.

I distinctively remember in 4th grade when we had to do a book report. My teacher was an avid reader herself and encouraged us strongly to read. I remember she had a huge wall lined with books that we could choose from. I read through many of the books that inhabited that wall. For this book report, though, we were asked to simply choose a book, read it, and make a poster about it. I walked over to the wall of books and for some reason chose the book Matilda.

Matilda became my favorite book after having completed that book report, and still is to this day. Matilda taught me many things, and as cliché as it sounds, they are things that have stuck with me to this day.

She taught me that:

  • It’s okay (and awesome) to be a reader, and that there’s strength to be found within books.
  • Reading can take you to other places, and pull you out of situations that aren’t always the greatest to be in.
  • Knowledge, and an eagerness to learn, can be used as a weapon against harsh realities of the world.Leah Meldrum
  • Sometimes adults aren’t the smartest, and what they say isn’t always the right thing.
  • To accept everyone, flaws and all.
  • It’s okay to be independent, even at a young age.

“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”

– Roald Dahl, Matilda

If you haven’t read anything by Roald Dahl, I highly encourage you to do so. There’s a lesson for everyone to be found within his books. They’re cleverly written and undeniably witty, even for children. I’m sure fellow readers will find solace within Matilda, and even as an adult, you might learn a thing or two.

– Leah Meldrum

 

Throughout the years, a superhero’s origin may be retold countless times. A new origin can help to modernize a character, bringing an outdated story to the present. It may also remind readers where this character has come from, what the driving motivation is for them. Or it may simply be to reintroduce the character to new readers, those who are less familiar with the story. At any rate, retelling stories such as this can be a thrill for comic writers. It’s their chance to put their mark on the core mythology of the characters they love so dearly.

So it was with class myth. These are stories that would be told and retold countless times, being told orally and passed down through generations. Each new telling would bring subtle changes into the myth, each listener bringing variations to the tale. When the myths came to be written down so too they changed, as they inevitably would when translated into any given language. Now with an influx of myth into modern cinema, these ancient tales are once again retold. Every time a new story is presented, but one which keeps the same basic elements of the original.

These retellings help to keep stories alive. They change and adapt to the times, gaining fresh life and taking on new relevance. In both myth and comics, each writer has their own unique style that they bring to a story, attempting to share it through their vision.

Take for example one of the best-known comic origin stories, that of the Batman. Young Bruce Wayne sees his parents gunned down before him as they exit the theatre, a senseless and random act of violence laying the seed of immense psychological damage in the Wayne’s sole child. Rather than succumbing to grief, Bruce spends the rest of his life training to become the scourge of Gotham City’s superstitious and cowardly criminal underworld. This is a story instantly familiar to anyone even vaguely aware of the character. Partly due to it being ingrained in the public psyche, but there is a definite reason why this story is so well-known.

To say nothing of its repetition in the source material (first introduced in 1939’s Detective Comics #27 and fleshed out in 1948’s Batman #47), Batman’s origin is one of the most popular stories told in adaptations of the comics. Practically every feature film starring the Caped Crusader has tackled it at some point. Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins in 2005, and most recently Scott Snyder’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016. Each story in some way depicts the same elements of that classic origin, but each time telling their own unique versions.

There are times, however, when these retellings can lead to totally new stories. Take for example 2011’s Flashpoint. In this major event story, writer Geoff Johns tells a modern Greek Tragedy centering on Barry Allen, also known as the Flash. Having at a young age witnessed the aftermath of his mother’s unsolved murder, Barry Allen spent his civilian life as a forensic scientist, trying to track down her killer. As the Flash, Barry’s super-speed granted him immense power, including the ability to travel through time. His nemesis, Professor Zoom, holds this power as well, and uses it to travel back in time and kill Barry’s mother. Some time after Barry discovers Zoom’s identity as his mother’s murderer, he himself travels through time to save her, launching the events of Flashpoint.

Levi RaabIn this story the Scarlet Speedster is cast as a tragic hero. His hamartia, his tragic flaw, is his love for his mother, propelling him to alter history to save a single life. He reaches his catastrophe when he realizes the damage he’s done to the timeline, causing the world to reach an apocalyptic state, and must stop himself from making his alteration to time. Once more, Professor Zoom kills his mother, returning the world to normal. Well, almost normal. The Flash’s reset of the timeline creates a new reality: DC’s New 52, as mentioned in my previous post.

In the New 52 everything has been granted a blank slate, allowing writers to tell new stories using these timeless characters. Once more the core elements are retained but reshaped, crafting new adventures for the modern mythic heroes, these icons of the page and screen. But to find out what makes these characters truly iconic, tune into the final post in this series, same bat-time, same bat-blog.

Part One

– Levi Raab

Fairy tales are often one of the first pieces of writing we hear as children. For many people, they can influence our lives in fantastical ways- hopefully without the talking mice and dancing silverware. But, for many, the simplicity of the fairy tale is also taken for granted. Re-tellings of fairy tales are relatively difficult to breathe new life into if not approached properly. Being able to invent new fairy tales, and also bring a new spin to the old stories, is a challenge that can not come without advice, so here are a few brief tips from me to hopefully make your piece stand out from the rest and make for a fantastic bedtime story.

You need to make the important distinction, from the state: are you retelling or starting from the ground up? In either case, you need to know the basic structure of these tales. Good and evil, fantastic lands, talking animals, underlying messages- these are all necessary elements, but there is still a difference between taking a Cinderella story to a new place and creating something completely new.

Keep your audience in mind. Writing for children, young adults, and literary publications all have different expectations. Though fairy tales are usually targeted towards children, there have been quite a few young adult novels written on the premises of fairy tales, and likely even more published for more adult audiences. Writing with your audience in mind is absolutely crucial in order to making the pieces successful- or, as the case may be, making your piece successful across all audiences.

Keep your atmosphere in mind. This genre of writing can come in many shapes and sizes. Take for example the difference between the Disney rendition of Cinderella, and the Grimm brother’s original take, with gruesome details on the step sisters’ foot mutilation. Many of the fairy tales people here are about sweet fairy godmothers and talking animals, but is that the tone you’re going for? Something to keep in mind while you write.

MelissaAre you following the tradition of the fairy tale, or does the happy ending seem too easy? Again, we need to make an important distinction between what the fairy tale needs to serve its function, and what traditions you want to break. There are multiple published works, plays, and films that explore both alternate endings to fairy tales we all know, continue to examine them past their definite ending, or those who simply tell much more grim stories than most people think children should hear. The traditions being broken could either make or break the story, depending on how delicately you handle the subject.

Read a lot of fairy tales!

If you’re interested any more in this topic and are looking for examples, or perhaps you just want to take a look at some stories a little beyond public view, here is an extensive list of other fairy tale adaptations. If you’re looking for the originals, the Grimm brothers, Charles Perrault, Hans Christian Anderson, and Joseph Jacobs are the most well-known and well-documented writers of the genre.

Now that you have a place to start, go finish those fantastic tales of yours before midnight and have fun doing it. Bippity-boppity-boo!

– Melissa Klein