by Charlie Jane Anders
Despite the two frequently being conflated, science-fiction and fantasy are two different genres of books. Often, the genres have completely different themes and perspectives on storytelling. However, many authors attempt to write books merging the two genres. While not every effort is successful, All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders succeeds brilliantly.
All the Birds in the Sky tells the story of Patricia and Laurence, a young witch and genius inventor, respectively. The book follows the two over a period of years from childhood to adulthood as their lives intersect multiple times. The two also must contend with a world-changing threat and a mysterious assassin, but much of the conflict of the novel comes simply from the two character’s clashing world-views and ideals. Anders has clearly thought a lot about the interplay between science-fiction and fantasy, and in many ways, Laurence and Patricia’s relationship is a mirror to that. The two main characters are very well-defined, as well as the supporting cast. Anders has also clearly put a lot of thought into her world-building, and while I’m not sure if a sequel is planned, I would love to see her return to this setting for future books.
As the former editor-in-chief of the nerd culture website io9, Anders clearly understands the conventions and tropes of the sci-fi and fantasy genres, but puts her own spin on them. If you’ve read science fiction and fantasy before, you’ve likely seen many of the elements of the book before, but never mixed together quite like this. As a result, the book feels both familiar and extremely unique at the same time. All the Birds in the Sky is funny, heartfelt, and above all else, a celebration of both science-fiction and fantasy. I would highly recommend this one.
What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
by Anne Bernays & Pamela Painter
The Lie That Tells a Truth
by John Dufresne
Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True
by Elizabeth Berg
Survival Writing by Claire Scrivener
If there’s one thing that Worcester does well, it’s produce writers. Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, John Dufresne...just to name a few. If that's your destiny too, here are a few books to consider for those days when focus and motivation are in short supply.
What If? is full of exercises designed to prepare you for writing fabulous fiction, heavily interspersed with inspiring quotes and examples of work from well-known writers. This book could be used as a textbook for writing class, a writer needing a fresh perspective, or any fan of fiction writing, as it's a fascinating compilation of the best in the business. Exercises range from “Create an intriguing first sentence” to “You’re in the shower and you hear the front door (which you thought was locked), open. Write two pages.”
John Dufresne’s The Lie that Tells a Truth also includes rousing quotes from famous writers and suggests helpful exercises, but his story is also very personal. Part memoir, part instruction manual, Dufresne generously shares his unique and humorous worldview, as well as his writing history and habits with the reader. Having grown up on Grafton Hill in Worcester as a French Canadian Catholic, parts of his account will be very familiar to some locals, not to mention parts of the city. (If you’ve never read Dufresne before, do yourself a favor and read Requiem, Mass. for a real homegrown treat.) His book also contains also kinds of tricks to stimulate the imagination and unleash the emotions, i.e. "List all the pets you've ever had. List all the things you are ashamed of."
Similarly, Elizabeth Berg provides her thoughts on writing in Escaping into the Open. She is well-known for her character-driven novels, but this book explains more about the nuts-and-bolts of accomplishing the act of writing and then getting published. For example, she provides a list of ideas for submissions to magazines for those wishing to break into the freelance biz, which was how she started her career. Berg concludes her book with recipes because “it’s important to nourish yourself when you’re working.”
And finally, a word on practical matters: to learn how to write letters, resumes, pitches, invoices, emails, articles, or reports, try Survival Writing by Claire Scrivener, a handbook designed to help readers navigate the business side of life successfully. She covers it all with the simple goal of transferring one's thoughts onto the page. Her tone is informal and light-hearted while being direct and informative. Perfect for readers embarking on a new career and ESL students.
Reform Your Inner Mean Girl: 7 Steps to Stop Bullying Yourself and Start Loving Yourself
By Amy Ahlers and Christine Arylo
Do you have a bully living inside of you?
Is she relentless in her demands that you be more, do more, or give more? Does she taunt you with lies that you’ll never reach your goals or be successful? If so, you may be dealing with a nasty little pest in the form of an Inner Mean Girl (IMG).
In their thought-provoking book Reform Your Inner Mean Girl:7 Steps to Stop Bullying Yourself and Start Loving Yourself, authors Amy Ahlers and Christine Arylo discuss the painful aspect of self-bullying, a hardship from which many women suffer. In ReformYour Inner Mean Girl Ahlers and Arylo introduce readers to thirteen different Inner Mean Girls including: The Achievement Junkie, The Comparison Queen, The Doing Addict, The Drama Queen, The Fixer and Rescuer, The Good Girl, The Head Tripper, The Invincible Superwoman, The Martyr, The Overly Optimistic Partying Cheerleader, The Perfectionist, The Rejection Queen, and The Worrywart. Along with each of these IMG profiles, Ahlers and Arylo discuss the “weapons,” “toxic habits,” and “big fat lies” of each Inner Mean Girl to help readers get to know these powerful pests. Ahlers and Arylo also include a detailed assessment so readers can identify the kind of IMG that resides inside themselves, as well as a chapter on understanding each kind of IMG’s motivations and triggers.
In the second part of ReformYour Inner Mean Girl, Ahlers and Arylo encourage readers to overcome self-bullying for good in their chapter “Meet Your Inner Wisdom.” Ahlers and Arylo define Inner Wisdom as a “voice more powerful than even the most lethal of Inner Mean Girls” and “the part of you that knows who you really are. The loving presence that loves you unconditionally and as a result can offer compassion and care to you no matter what” (p. 119). Some features of this part of the book include: “Telling the difference between your Inner Mean Girl and Your Inner Wisdom,” “Love Mantras,” and “How to Strengthen Your Inner Wisdom.”
This book is chock full of revelations and inspiration that will help readers strengthen their own self-worth and take the power back from their inner critic so that they can redefine their own lives.