fiction

Review of the Book, “Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman

Warning: contains spoilers***

I don’t usually review picture books. But since I watched a video of my friend reading “Are You My Mother” and really enjoyed it, both the clip and the story, I will review the content. This book was actually a favorite of mine when I was little. Anyway, let me start.

A mother bird is sitting on her egg and figures that her baby will need food. So, she flies away to fetch something for her young. Then the baby bird hatches and leaves the nest to find his mom. He asks different creatures and even a boat and construction machine, which he calls a snort due to its sound, if they are his mother. Eventually, he finds his real mom and shares a bonding moment with her.

The story was nice and fun. I especially found it cute when the baby bird called that construction machine a snort. I told that to my friend and he found that funny. I also agree with him about how the baby bird doesn’t seem to understand genetics. Lol.

That being said, one flaw that stands out to me is that the mother bird wears a bonnet, even though she’s a wild animal. Unless she was released into the wild by a human and already had the bonnet on, it’s quite odd and unbelievable. Even if she found it, how would she put it on when she doesn’t have apposable thumbs?

Although this is the main purpose of the plot, I found it irresponsible for the mother bird to leave the nest and her baby alone. He even passed his mother when looking for her and didn’t know that was her. But maybe it is scientifically accurate for a mother bird to leave the nest and young to find it food before it hatches.

The story was still great. I think pretty much everyone has read it in his or her childhood. I would rate “Are You My Mother” 5 out of 5 stars.

fiction

Interview with Author, Tara Gilboy

As someone who enjoyed her book, “Unwritten,” I am interviewing the author, Tara Gilboy. See the questions and answers below and enjoy!

What do you find the most enjoyable about writing?

I think for me, brainstorming and coming up with new story ideas is always the best part of writing. I love looking at the world as a potential source of story ideas, and I love doing research on them. Of course, after that, the hard work sets in, as I then have to develop the plot and characters in those ideas. But I am always happiest when I am imagining new worlds and possibilities.

What genres do you like to read in now?

I am a very wide reader: I read in pretty much every genre! Right now, since it’s fall and getting to be Halloween time, I have been reading a lot of scary stories, but I also am a huge fan of historical fiction, fantasy, mystery, nonfiction, you name it. I do tend to read a lot of middle grade and young adult books more so than adult novels, partly because that is what I like to write, and partly because I love the way they focus on good, old-fashioned storytelling.

Who is your favorite character in your book?

It is so hard to pick just one! Gracie, my protagonist, is of course my special favorite, but I loved writing Cassandra because she is just so complicated and evil! And Gertrude Winters and I have a lot in common, so I have a special place for her too. And then Walter, of course…. I love them all!

Who is your favorite fictional character in general?

I think if I had to pick just one, I would say Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. When I was a kid, I was always happiest reading, so I think I am drawn to her because she reminds me of myself when I was younger.

Where do you get your ideas?

I wish I knew the answer to this! Ideas come to me all the time. Sometimes I’ll get an idea from something I read or from people I know. If I am searching for ideas, I will often visit a place like a museum or art gallery, because I always leave feeling inspired. The trouble for me is not finding ideas; it is selecting the right idea, the one I am excited enough about that I am willing to commit to it long-term. I often start stories and then put them aside halfway through because I lose interest in them. But I would say that my number one source for ideas is reading. Reading other books by writers I love always inspires me and makes me want to write. 

What other genres would you ever want to write in?

I have always wanted to write historical fiction, and in fact, I have probably started and stopped nearly a dozen historical fiction projects in the last few years alone. I love to read historical fiction and so have always wanted to write it, but somehow I always find myself either stalling or getting bogged down in the research. I feel confident, though, that I will finish one of these historical projects eventually! I also have an idea for a true crime story that I would like to work on, so I have been doing research on writing true crime narratives lately as well.

What was your favorite book as a child?

It is tough to pick just one! I was obsessed with both Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess

What types of scenes do you enjoy writing most?

My favorite kinds of scenes are ones that make me laugh. Sometimes the scene itself isn’t even funny, but I find myself laughing because I am so taken aback by what a character just said or did. I like writing scenes where the characters surprise me and go in a direction I hadn’t expected when I first sat down to write. Those are usually scenes with a lot of emotional intensity.

What did you struggle most with when writing your book?

I think in my first book, Unwritten, I struggled most with making the “rules” of my magical world clear. The concept I had undertaken, writing of a girl who is a character in a story, ended up being a lot more complex (and potentially confusing to readers) than I had anticipated when I started. I was really lucky to have a great workshop group and critique partners who helped me along the way. I also always really struggle with plot and structure. I find that plotting gets easier, though, once I have my character’s main goal or drive figured out. Until I know what my main character wants, I don’t really have a story.

What character can you relate to most?

I think I relate to Gertrude Winters the most, perhaps because we both share a love of writing. And in Rewritten, Gertrude is struggling with a nasty case of writer’s block, something I can definitely relate to!

Are there unique details you pick up on in fiction, either visual or written?

It depends on what and why I am reading. Reading is my absolute favorite thing in the world, and so I try to just let myself sink into the story. I don’t want to always be looking “behind the scenes” at the way a story is constructed. That said, after I’ve read a book I love once or twice, I will often go back to it and look at what specifically makes it work so well. And when I am struggling with something in my own writing, I often look at books or scenes that are similar to mine to see what strategies the author used to handle various issues that came up. For example, when I needed to write a scene about a fire, I read a lot of different books with fire scenes (for example, the fire scene in Jane Eyre, where Jane puts out a fire in Mr. Rochester’s bedroom) to see how other authors had handled it.

Do you ever notice elements in fiction that others don’t?

I think so, but then again, many of my students and friends notice things in fiction that I don’t too. I tend to look a lot at plot and structure when I am reading, and I have some wonderful friends who are always reminding me of the beauty of language and lyrical prose. I think we all look at slightly different things as readers and writers, and so we always learn from each other.

What is your writing pet peeve?

My biggest writing pet peeve is writers who show off at the expense of the story. It is something I used to struggle with when I first started writing, and I had to train myself not to do it. The plot and characters come first and foremost: writers can’t be afraid to cut paragraphs and scenes, even if they love the language, if they don’t contribute to the overall story. Also for some odd reason I dislike the word “myriad.” I’m not sure why, but it’s always been a pet peeve of mine.

Thank you so much for having me!

Writing

Unpopular Writing Opinion: Why I Wish Readers Would Accept Characters’ Physical Appearances as Written

As a writer, I have to follow creative writing rules and standards in order to please readers. As much as I’m okay with most of the craft guidelines, there are a few aspects about readers that I wish were different. That is how I wish readers would be more okay with characters’ physical descriptions. Please note that I am not criticizing anyone who believes the opposite of what I do. I respect others’ opinions. But this is how I actually feel.

Just because there are no pictures in novels (excluding graphic novels), that doesn’t mean the writers shouldn’t physically describe their characters. However, most experts say to keep the descriptions to a minimum or only describe what is important and let the readers picture them their ways. In fact, some people have even said that they will rebel against the characters’ description and picture them their own ways. For example, one might picture a blonde character dark-haired, which I think is silly. What if that blonde character is from a bestselling book that becomes a movie and that same character is also blonde in the film? It’s not like you could file a complaint to Hollywood for that.

But I really disagree with the guideline of not describing your characters a lot. I would say that authors should get to describe their characters however they’d like and have as many physical attributes as they want. That being said, they shouldn’t describe everything. That’s because it would be too much to remember and would bog down the narrative. The only time I’d understand readers getting upset over physical descriptions is if the traits were offensive (i.e. never say something like, “Mr. Yang looked at me through his squinted eyes.” That’s a big no-no!).

I have a feeling that readers forget that characters’ physical appearances get presented to them all the time outside novels. They see how characters look in movies, TV shows, live performances, comics, picture books (if they are, have, or work with small children), and graphic novels. If they’re okay with Wonder Woman having dark hair or Timmy Turner having blue eyes, I wish they would feel the same with a novel character being described with red hair, or green eyes, and so on. But even one person said that they still didn’t like being told what the characters look like and said, “We have movies for that.”

Which brings me to my next point: the readers don’t own the content—the writers do. Therefore, I think they deserve the right to describe the characters to their readers. If only the readers would acknowledge that the characters are somebody else’s creations, property, and copyright. Therefore, if only they would accept that another person created the content and gets to have a say in their appearances. If readers really like a certain physical attribute of a person, they should create their own characters with those. You know the old saying, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”? I wish I could apply that to readers when they find out about a character’s physical appearance.

Writing

When Should You Describe Voices in Your Writing?

Image from Pixabay

Every character should have a unique voice. And by that, I don’t just mean speech patterns, words, attitudes, and so on, I also mean physical voices. For instance, are they high, low, nasal, etc.?

I used to describe what my characters’ voices sounded like in my earlier writing days. And in my book, “The Frights of Fiji,” I do say what a few characters’ voices sound like. Two of them are described with deep voices and one is said to have a high voice. However, those were mainly done for comedic purposes. I originally published “The Frights of Fiji” in 2013 as “From Frights to Flaws.” I now refrain from explaining how my characters’ voices sound, unless it’s important to the stories.

Even my main character’s voice noise isn’t revealed. In the sequel, there is a scene where she sings a certain song. Although I state that she takes chorus at school, I don’t specify if she is an alto or soprano. That is because I want readers to use their envisions to what her voice sounds like.

Many people dislike when characters’ physical appearances are described unless they’re important, otherwise, the readers should get to picture them their ways. I happen to be the opposite with that. I am an advocate for authors to describe their characters with whatever traits they want, as long as it’s not too many (since that can bog down the narrative and be too much to remember), or offensive. I not only believe that writers deserve the right to physically describe their characters, but I also cannot picture characters clearly unless the narrators say what they look like.

That being said, it’s the reverse for voices. Since I first wrote Book 1 of my “Magical Missions” series, I learned more about the writing craft, and chose to give up with explaining how characters’ voices sound, except when it’s crucial. I would recommend that to all aspiring writers. A few voice sounds revealed here and there probably won’t matter. Just be sure not to overdo it, or else, it might overwhelm your readers.

Writing

I Am Not Like Other Writers…And Let Me Tell You Why

What makes me different from other writers, you may ask? Do you know how writing experts say that all authors must love reading, too? Well, that’s not how I am.

Yes, it might be strange for me to say this, but while I love writing, I don’t love reading. You read that right. I hardly ever read for fun. Usually, I read to enhance something for myself or if I’m forced to—which hasn’t happened in years since I’m out of school and college.

The last year I’ve enjoyed reading stories for fun was 3rd grade. Starting in 4th grade, I’d only read non-fiction for fun. Not much has changed with that since—well, except in 8th and 9th grade. I would only read “Harry Potter” for pleasure. I constantly borrowed the books from my school library. And because I started reading them after the first four movies had been released, I read the novels out of order. It was no problem.

Anyway, another unique trait in me is that I’m not just a weak reader for my age, but I also have younger tastes. I am not kidding. I would often get surprised when I heard about young children reading about characters at least a few years older than them and advancing faster than I thought. There are even complex books for kids who advance quickly, but are appropriate for their ages.

When I heard about a 7-year-old who wouldn’t be caught dead reading Dr. Seuss and read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, I was thinking Caught dead? At that age, I was constantly borrowing Dr. Seuss books from my school library. I also heard about a 4th grader who read about 14-year-old main characters. When I was that young, 14 would’ve been an extremely big number for me, and I would’ve considered myself way too young for that. I am not exaggerating. The first time I read about a 14-year-old character was early 8th grade, and that was “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”. I was reading about characters at that age when I was 16. I also read “Judy Moody” when I was 10. I’m, like, the only person who read down a lot—the opposite of many people, children and adults. My mom even had to stop me from reading a certain book for school summer reading because it was too young.

Excluding required stories for school, I’ve rarely read up for fun. I read the 7th Harry Potter book from age 13-14 (I read super slowly and have a short attention span) and where the protagonist is 17. But that was only because it was a bestselling franchise. Had it been at the level of “Percy Jackson” or “Eragon”, I likely would never have touched the book.

Last year, right before turning 25, I was just getting interested in new adult stories. As a college freshman, my classmates would discuss books like, “The Help” while I was far from ready to outgrow young adult novels.

On the bright side, if you write children’s books, reading other stories in your target audience’s age range will help you with your own writing. So, there’s a benefit of reading below your level.

Above all, don’t let others judge you. Be who you want to be. Read what you like and when you want. Hey—it might benefit your own writing.