A Day at the Museum // And Other Adventures

A Day at the Museum // And Other Adventures

Well, well, well. I’ve again returned from the tight clutches of reality to my special little place on the internet, and with good reason. (Yes, I am celebrating my blog’s fifth anniversary this week, but that is not the reason for my posting.) I’ve happened to experience a day of glorious adventures, and not far from home. I do believe that I went overboard with editing these photos. Some I edited to make them look vintage, others are overedited because of poor indoor lighting. I only ask you to overlook the ones less than desirable, as they show their quality. *insert Faramir meme here*

There was a special exhibit at one of my favorite museums, one that my sister and I immediately planned to see as soon as the museum announced its arrival. I knew I had to dress vintage for the trip.

There was no particular decade to this outfit, it was a more of a mish-mash. . . pardon me, a “collection” of different decades. The dress was given to me by a friend (thanks Miss Sue) and I altered it a bit to make it appear more vintage. I’d like to think that it could fit into either the 30s, or 40s. However, some of these photos remind me of ones from the 1970s. Let’s just say, I was a time traveler that day.

You may be wondering about this special exhibit, the one I was so excited to visit. Well, first take a guess. . . hint: It rhythms with Hatharine Kepburn. I’ll give you a moment to think real hard on this one.

Did you get it? Of course, you did. Katharine Hepburn is one of my favorite actresses (pictured here with Cary Grant from the 1938 film Bringing Up Baby, which also happens to be one of my favorite movies).

I was lucky enough to be in the presence of many of Katharine Hepburn’s film costumes spanning over her entire career. Two large rooms were filled with gowns, suits, shoes, accessories, and personal items that once belonged to her. I could have spent hours in front of each display, it was captivating to be so close to history, and old Hollywood. Pictured below are just some of the many costumes in the exhibit.

Here’s her famous black gown from Adam’s Rib (1949).

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967).

The Philadelphia Story (1940), Stage Door (1937), The Little Minister (1934), and then Me (2021).

The Lion in Winter (1968), and Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962).

Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry (1986).

Her personal everyday shoes.

The Lake (1933) Broadway Play.

These three above are from a TV show, The Corn is Green, from 1979. A lot of the costumes were from productions I’d never seen before, like this one. My list of movies and shows to watch had doubled after leaving the museum.

Oh, yeah, there was also a Lego exhibit. . .

After the museum, my sister and I had some adventures around town.

This was right around the time when a motorcycle gang showed up. They also decided to blow out two sports car engines (sounded like literal canon fire) for five minutes straight. It was strange, hence my expression and awkward stance above. The gang also asked if I had any hand sanitizer they could use, and yes, I gave them some out of my car. They now ride around town with jackets embroidered, “The Germ-Free Angels.” No they don’t, I made up that last part.

All in all, it was a wonderful day of adventures. I hope you can set aside a day to have one just as good this week. Always have a friend with you, never forget to buy some chocolate milk on the way, and always give a motorcycle gang some hand sanitizer upon request.

Dress // gifted

Shoes // thrifted

Clutch purse // thrifted

Hairclip // gifted

How to Create Unique Character Names

One of my favorite things to do as a writer is to create character names. It’s one of the first things I do to start a new story. Names can say a lot about a person and finding just the right title for your characters can really help the story flourish.

Firstly, there are a few types of names in the story world, and I’ve come up with five different categories, just for fun. We have: bland names, overused names, hard-to-pronounce names, principal-character names, and side-character names. Now, let’s talk about them in a little more detail.

These are the names that don’t really stand out, the names that we have to go back through the book searching for because we forgot who “that guy” was. Go through your memory and try to think of some dull character names from stories you’ve read. The characters you’ve forgotten about entirely, just because you forgot their name.

Yet another thing to consider, for characters that don’t really matter to the story, people who don’t need to be remembered at the end of a book, bland names are perfect! If you’re looking for a name to fit someone who is insignificant to the storyline, bland is just fine.

Okay, we’re talking the kind of names you can find in basically every young adult paperback sitting in used bookstores from here to Timbuktu (perhaps an mild exaggeration, as I often exaggerate things with ease). Think “generic.” Of, course, different genres are going to have different overused names. For instance, open a historically set book and you’ll probably find a John, a James, a Henry, a William, a Mary, etc., because those names were very popular in history. Something from the 1990s might have a Jessica, a Brittney, an Ashley, a Chad, and a Michael. So, yes it will be historically correct to use these names, but not necessarily unique, since they can be found in many other books. If you’re looking for highly accurate names for the time, go with those even if they’re overused. If you feel you could be a little more lenient, gather uncommon and unique names, ones that are still accurate yet rare.

I think overused names can be found more frequently in surnames, like Smith, Jones, Brown, Johnson, etc. Yet, there’s nothing wrong with using any of these names, first or last. Indiana Jones is a world-wide known name, because the ordinary surname is overridden by a very unique first name. Another example, Luke Skywalker: very common first name, very uncommon last name. So you have the freedom to choose whatever arrangement sounds best for your character. There are no “rules” here, play around with the names, generic or unique! You can also take a popular last name and use it as a first name, and visa versa.

(Side-note: Jane Austen often used the same name for many of her characters, like Jane, Fitzwilliam, Anne, Fanny, Mary, Robert, and John, and it obviously didn’t hurt her writing career because of it, so do whatever you may!)

Most certainly more than once, I’ve read a name over and over again throughout a book without knowing how to correctly pronounce it, mumbling it in my head, and hoping I never have to read it aloud. It could be a name from a different language, or completely made up, like “Poigly” or “Maigdor” (how did you pronounce those; I’d like to know?) We can go through an entire book and simply skim over actually understanding that one name, because we’re unsure of how it’s supposed to sound. Perhaps using one or two hard to pronounce names is perfectly harmless, but an entire book of it could easily hurt the flow of the story if the reader is fumbling through every other sentence. Imagine reading Genesis chapter 10 in a consistent flow. Yeah, impossible.

Secondly, a name can just be too long. It can get tiring for the reader to sound out 2 four-syllable names every time the character is mentioned. So maybe give them a nickname!

This is your main character’s name, the one that you want everyone to be able to remember, with a unique ring to it, and some sort of tie to their personality. A nice blend of easy to remember/catchy, yet unique. You can pick a name that reflects the traits of the character. Wise people would have intelligent sounding names, untrustworthy people, a suspiciousness about their names. If you have several main characters, make sure they don’t sound strange when put together (since they’re probably going to be mentioned together often), like Will, Bill, and Jill (unless it’s important to the storyline).

These are the names that lay somewhere in between the bland names and the principle character names. The ones that don’t really have to stand out, but have to sound realistic for their character, time period, and location. Any name that doesn’t make the principal-character cut, move it to the side-character list. A great sidekick needs a great name!

Where to find unique names?

  • A physical phone book – if you can find one. It’s always fun to do the random flip and point trick to create names. It never fails to give me unique and creative titles.
  • Cemeteries – This is my secret place for gathering names, shh don’t tell anybody. I’ve filled page after page with rare and interesting names that sounded fascinating to me, from several different cemeteries. If you’re looking for historic names, look at the older headstones. (And no, I don’t consider this morbid in any way, these people would have most likely been thrilled to find out that a writer from the future had included their name in a story.)
  • Your family tree – Look back into your own history and write down some of your favorite names, and of people who have been an inspiration to you from your family. It’s a good excuse to research your ancestry in detail, and you can even use some of the information and tales you find to include in the story.
  • Old censuses – this might be your last resort. If you can find an old census in the library or online, you can pinpoint the date and general location when and where a certain name was in fashion. But reading through document after document, you may find it easier to try the other methods first.

So whenever you’re in need of names, grab your trusty notebook and make two categories, first names and last names. Gather anything and everything that catches your attention. Mix and match to created hundreds of different names. You’ll know a good name when you see one. Sometimes a name alone can spark the idea for a whole new story!

You can also use your list of newly gathered names for streets, towns, and establishments. There’s no limit to what you can use your research for, and the good thing about doing all your own research is that no other writer is going to have the same list of names. It will be completely distinct.

All this to say: you don’t have to use the internet name-generators that everyone else uses. You can be unique and special by finding them yourself, in the world, in your hometown, and in your ancestry. So have a ball gathering wonderful names and watch your characters come to life!

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What’s your go-to way of naming characters?

Do names just come to your head, or do you go out and search for them?

Have you ever created a great name, only to then discover it’s already a famous literary character’s name and you can’t use it anymore, or is it just me?

My Secret Yet Not So Secret Garden

My Secret Yet Not So Secret Garden

Yes, my “secret garden” is just my weedy backyard. Yes, I can usually hear approximately seventy-five lawnmowers and three chainsaws going at once. And yes, I was swatting at bugs sixty percent of the time. But it is all tolerable . It’s still my secret yet not so secret garden, and I’m grateful for any “bit of earth” I can call my own. With all the national parks closed, I’ve felt disconnected from nature this spring. I’m so eager to run through an empty field, climb a rocky mountain, walk into some dark woods, or picnic beneath a big oak. But for now, my yard will do. And finally, on the last day of April, the April weather has arrived!

When I was switching my winter clothes to summer clothes, I came across this denim jumpsuit. I’m positive that I’ve never seen it before and have no idea how it found its way into my storage containers over the winter. It fits and I like it, so maybe I should just be happy to find it. Still, I consider it slightly strange.

And lastly, I’d like to raise a teacup of roses to Frances Hodgson Burnett for introducing me to my longtime friend, Mary Lennox. We get along pretty well now, even though she was a little unusual at first. But then, so was I… We both have a need for outdoor spaces of beauty and an obsession with old keys. Friends we are and friends we’ll stay, quietly in our own secret gardens.

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

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jumpsuit // no idea

flower crown // icing

sneakers // stolen from my sister

bag // target

hat // thrifted

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Have you been able to enjoy the beautiful outdoors lately? We need all the sun we can get at present.

Which Frances Hodgson Burnett book is your favorite?

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Megan Joy

Oh No, Not Another Little Women

Forget my last post. THIS, apparently is what brought me back to blogging: the need to rant about yet another version of my precious Little Women, which has somehow found its way onto the big screen, again. Yes, a new film was released around two weeks ago, claiming to represent the beloved Louisa May Alcott work about four sisters and their coming of age story. Just how many versions of this story can be made, one may ask? Well, if you were to include silent films, theatrical plays, musicals, operas, radio programs, tv shows, and films, there would be a grand total of 20 documented versions of Little Women.

You may have read my post on the PBS’s Masterpiece version that was released just last year, and I’ve promised myself that I won’t be as harsh with this one. . . if at all possible.  I’m sure we can all agree that Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version of Little Women has for certain, risen above all other attempts and that Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March were represented extremely well by Trini Alvarado, Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, and Kirsten Dunst, and it stands to reason that there will never be a better Laurie than young Christian Bale.

Now, after watching the film trailer, which can be found on YouTube, I’ve decided not to pay thirteen dollars to see this new version in theater because I would surely disrupt it for other viewers as I stand upon my seat screaming “That’s not historically correct!” or “That’s not even in the book!” After all, you can have all the best lighting, sets, color grading, and visual effects, but those things don’t really compete with the way the actual story of Little Women is told, and how the dialog and costumes are used to make us truly believe we’re in the middle of the Civil War.

On the other hand, maybe you’ve seen this new take on the book and found it enjoyable? That’s completely fine! Remember this is only me sharing my personal opinion. However, I did notice a few things in the official 3-minute-long trailer which at this moment has half a million views. Here’s what I noticed:

0:12 – We see four sister walking down a snowy street, two without any hats or bonnets (historically inaccurate). They also look a little homeless, but maybe I’m just too picky?

0:23 – We hear Amy tell her sisters that she wants to be the best artist in the world. Is it just me or does she seem older than all the sisters, and not the youngest child in the family? Why didn’t they find a younger actress to play ten-year-old Amy instead of trying to fool us out of knowing that the actress is actually twenty-three years old in real life?

0:57 – Jo’s at a party with her hair down. How did she get away with that? Quite shocking if you were to ask any historical reenactress today.

1:23 – It sounds like Jo is trying to convince Meg that they should run away from home? What?

1:32 – Ok, what in the world were they thinking? It’s Meg’s wedding day and she appears to be wearing something perhaps more fitting for the 1970s rather than 1870s, with her hair DOWN, uncurled, and with a side part (very historically inaccurate). With a budget of $40 million dollars, couldn’t they have hired someone who knew a little something about the standards of 1860s-1870s beauty? It’s her wedding day and is looking as though she forgot to wake up in time to do her hair. All throughout the trailer in fact, we see side parts and either straight or beach wavy hair, down about their shoulders and not up where it should be while in public, historically.

1:43 – Why is Jo burning her own writing? What happened to that being Amy’s trademark?

2:00 – Here is a staircase full of women presumedly at the Moffat party, perhaps? Ten girls dressed in basically the same dress, only each in a different pastel color with matching elbow length gloves, (not actually in fashion during the Civil War). It reminds me of a Disney cartoon/fairytale, instead of a historical drama in the way that each dress is the same. But that is only my personal opinion, of course. I also want to mention that I DID see many historically accurate gowns and outfits in the trailer that were quite beautiful in fact, ones that I absolutely cannot complain about.

2:29 – Jo is fashioned in a man’s jacket and derby. That would have been almost as strange to the people of New York in the 1870s as a man in a dress, literally. Yes, we all know Jo is a tomboy, but I doubt she would actually get away with that in public and not be harshly questioned for it.

What also riled me was that along with this new movie comes the selling of a book that a few people I know have bought. The front cover is a photo from the new film and inside are more pictures of the same. What I want to know is: Is this book the original book, or it is the 2019 adaptation that changes the plot to match Greta Gerwig’s script? Because, after reading a few articles, I know that not only little changes were made, but big ones too, like the ending. Emma Thompson, screenwriter and co-star of Sense and Sensibility 1995 once wrote in her production journal, “The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Dairies” that she strongly rejected the idea to republish Jane Austen’s book as a “novelisation” adapted to match Thompson’s screenplay, and sell it as the real thing. She said the idea was revolting, meaning that if someone wanted to read Sense and Sensibility, they should read Austen’s original work. I must agree with our dear Emma.

Little Women 2019, which stars a slew of famous names, has been spoken of well by film critics (but we all know that means almost nothing) and was already nominated for two Golden Globe Awards, Saoirse Ronan for Best Actress and Alexandre Desplat for Best Original Score. Now, I’ve done some little detective work and have found the following interesting facts:

  1. Winona Ryder was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress as Jo March in 1994 but lost to Jessica Lange for Blue Sky.
  2. Thomas Newman was nominated for Best Original Score in 1994 but lost to Hans Zimmer for The Lion King.
  3. The great Colleen Atwood was nominated for Best Costume Design in 1994 but lost to Tim Chappel for a movie I’ve never even heard of.
  4. Little Women, 1994 budget was $18 million dollars. Little Women, 2019 budget was $40 million dollars.

Now for a few more recent facts about the 77th Golden Globe Awards, held on January 5th, 2020:

  1. Christian Bale (Laurie, Little Women, 1994) was nominated for Best Actor in Ford vs. Ferrari.
  2. Thomas Newman (score composer, Little Women, 1994) was nominated for Best Original Score in 1917 and was against Alexandre Desplat who wrote the new score for the 2019 Little Women.
  3. Kirsten Dunst (Young Amy, Little Women, 1994) was nominated for Best Actress in a Television Series.

None of these nominations ended up winning last night, but I did see that both Thomas Newman and Kirsten Dunst were at the awards on Sunday night, (no Christian Bale though). Now, I was thinking. What do Christian, Thomas, and Kirsten, who are all heavily connected to the previous Little Women think about this new production? What do the rest of the cast and crew think? Do they think it was time for a remake, or are they like me and not ready for a new take on this beloved story?

Maybe I’m a little sour over this whole ordeal, but what else am I to think while feeling as though the book has been ripped from my hands, cut up, pasted back together with modernly crafted glue, plastered with an unknown photo from a film, stripped from its universally known ending, then released to the entire world to accept as once before? What do you think? Please let me know! I want to hear any and all opinions!

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Have you seen this 2019 version? Am I dreadfully wrong not to see it and yet criticize it?

Should I stop this continuous ranting of movies I don’t like? (Insert mysterious pirate accent here: Because I hear tell there be a trailer for a “Secret Garden” remake that I feel the need to tear apart, being a strong believer in the treasure that is the 1993 version, arrgg!)

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Megan Joy

Twenty Twenty

What’s this? What could have possibly delivered me from the vices of reality and returned me safely to my dusty keyboard for the sole purpose of pecking away in merriment, resulting in the sudden creation of a blog post? (Truly, my keyboard is far from dusty, considering I use it every day to write, just not for blogging, nevertheless it sounded nearly poetic, so I left it in.)

Perhaps it was the commencement of a new, exclusive, never-before-seen decade that forced upon me the urge to jot down a few paragraphs? To begin a blogging schedule again in 2020 most certainly is not a New Year’s resolution of mine, I’ve decided, because I know I won’t be able to keep it for very long. Instead I want to write for my blog when I have the time, which is much more fun than crafting a schedule, only to feel like a failure each time I skip writing a post.

But enough about schedules, certain failure, guilt, and the like (horrible things, I must admit). I am only here using up your precious time (technically this is your own fault for clicking on this and I am not to blame, but I do thank you for reading, assuredly), to make myself known as not dead, but alive, contrary perhaps to what was once believed after I abruptly dropped off the face of WordPress in June of last year. No, I am very much alive and inspired to gain nothing but the joys of writing, (because blogging is actually very fun, and certainly takes less effort than writing an entire book.) So, let us each lift a glass of orange tea (or chocolate milk, perhaps) in a toast to the future of unknown happenings and also to the past for all its acquired lessons!

With my parting words, I will leave you: “Use this new decade well, for it is limited edition and only guaranteed to be in stock for the next ten years. No refunds. See calendar for details.”

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Megan Joy

Little Women Enthusiast Reviews PBS’s Masterpiece Adaptation

Little Women Enthusiast Reviews PBS’s Masterpiece Adaptation

A little disclaimer: being an aspiring filmmaker, I tend to look at a movie most critically and judge it by its content, presentation, what emotions it evokes, and its takeaway. I do like to be truthful in my views, however I will attempt not to make the following as blunt as my original draft. 😊 Do remember, this is only my personal opinion.

Second disclaimer: this review DOES include spoilers.

Costumes

There were two or three scenes showing the girls in corsets. Firstly, not all the March sisters wore corsets that early into the book. Secondly, some of the ones used are from the wrong time-period. Meg’s corset was styled from the late 1700s while Jo’s corset was that of a later Victorian design. That’s a 100-year+ gap between the two, and neither were exactly accurate. Furthermore, they were not wearing the corsets correctly. This caused the corset lines to be seen through some of the dresses, also revealing that they were not wearing corset covers.

Regarding the dresses, I’d have to say that most of them would be considered accurate, however, many were ill fitting, which would have been unusual considering that the Marches did their own sewing and tailoring.

In two different scenes, Jo can be seen wearing some sort of odd floral bathrobe, which does not say “1860s.”

In the boating scene, Miss Vonn is wearing a blue, English 1770s styled gown, and even though she was from England, it was established in the book that her family was wealthy, therefore I doubt she would have to wear a 90-year-old dress.

Makeup 

The makeup director seemed to know little of historical beauty. Each of the March sisters were in more modern makeup styles, including mascara, eye liner, lipstick, and blush, especially little Amy. While some of these beauty enhancers had been used subtly in the 1860s, none of the March girls would be wearing it around the house, and especially not to bed. Also, Laurie was for some reason wearing noticeable makeup.

Acting

The main issue with this adaptation perhaps was that the acting was over rehearsed and, in some cases, insincere. I may be quite spoilt by the 1994 version where every single line was performed brilliantly and believably, however good acting should be a main focus in the creation of any film, and one might say that this version fell a little short.

I found some flaws in the portraying of the characters, as well. Timid Beth is too scared to even enter Mr. Lawrence’s front gates, though eventually gets up some courage to go into the house and sit at the piano. She is frightened when Mr. Lawrence tells her to stop, however is smiling without a care in the same scene when this stranger of an old man comes to sit and listen to her play. She doesn’t even appear to be nervous. I know I would be!

The relationship between Jo and Amy seems much harsher than in the book or any other version. One could also say that Amy was plain evil toward Jo and the rest of her family, and much more ill-mannered overall. Her actions, replies, and glares were certainly on the modern level of bad behavior. Furthermore, I found that Jo attacking Amy and slapping her in the face was overly dramatic.

Considering the filmmakers had three entire hours to fill with the book’s contents, I felt that there were not enough moments of true loving connection involving the March family. Marmee appeared as a very independent woman who seemed to know little of her daughters’ true feelings and oft gave poor advice at the wrong times (like in the attic after Amy burns Jo’s manuscript).

Music

The soundtrack trilled of modern breathy humming and ukulele strumming, which stands as an unusual choice for this newest version of Little Women. Perhaps the idea was to be set apart from the traditional orchestral music of historical productions, and if this was indeed their true intention, they were successful. I think that the music would be enjoyable for a different setting, though to pair it with forever famous “Little Women” can detract from the story and draw us away from 1860s New England.

Screenplay 

The opening credits were unusual, however I found that I enjoyed its presentation. On the other hand, the opening scene was quite the contrary. The overall feeling was that we were watching the girls do something of a repulsive nature, when really their main deed was to each snip a lock of hair to send to their father. By the editing and acting, it seemed as though the March sisters were doing this sweet gesture with an odd sense of wickedness. Let me just say that it was strange!

Also, Mr. March is certainly more present than in the book or other film versions, showing him caring for a dying slave in his chaplain’s tent. I think the decision to actually show Mr. March’s life in the army prevents the viewers from feeling how the March girls felt. They couldn’t see their father, spend time with him, or truly understand what he was going through. They were left only to know things by what could be relayed through a pen, and the fact that we were seeing the real picture while they were not seemed to eliminate the viewer’s desire to know, which differed from what the March girls were presently feeling.

I think that it would have been very smart to use two different actresses for the role of Amy to play her different ages, however this version had one actress play both the adolescent Amy and married Amy, which I felt weakened the overall effect and story.

Additionally, there was a “half-undressed” scene that I saw as unnecessary. There were also two different mentions of suicide which I thought was irrational extra drama.

Lastly, I did not admire how all Biblical lessons that are readily available to acquire from Little Women, were excluded, or replaced with feminist views. In the book, when trouble hit the March family, they called upon God for strength. In this new version, the girls drew strength from their “womanhood” and powered through with female independence, instead of harnessing God’s love to continue with their difficult lives as they did in the book.

Flubs and Mistakes 

The green-screening and CGI were quite recognizable.

When Jo runs into the woods to get a stick to rescue Amy, (which seems to be difficult even though she was in a late-winter forest) she returns with the stick and somehow has stabbed her hand and is covered in blood. Additionally, her cheek was also bleeding, while Amy, who was in the water for over a minute and a half, didn’t even catch cold. It takes about 15 minutes for one to get hypothermia and die, so let’s be thankful that Jo didn’t run any further into the woods than she unnecessarily did!

When Jo gets her hair cut, it is styled in a more modern fashion and there were no cut marks.

Beth’s hands were not moving at the piano while it was playing.

In one scene, every single CGI snowflake were falling up.

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In conclusion: I must say that this miniseries does get better with each episode. By the end, there is a good quality to it that can possibly smooth over some of its faults. So. . .

Is this version of “Little Women” an accurate representation of Louisa May Alcott’s wonderful book? No.

Will watching this miniseries before reading the book hurt your reading experience? I think so.

Is this version historically accurate? Not quite.

Overall, is the 1994 Little Women version better? The answer is quite obvious, my friends.

Should you bother to watch this miniseries if you love the book? Yes, but be discerning and keep an eye out for its discrepancies.

Am I being too frank in my review? Probably.

Am I a crazy history loving girl who gets slighted when I meet someone who has never read Little Women? Yes!

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Have you seen this miniseries yet?

If so, what did you think?

Am I being too severe in my truthful opinions again? 😊

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Megan Joy

Guest Post // Tips for Writing Disabled Characters in Your Stories

Penny Wood Guest Post 5-24-18

Today, I’m excited to introduce to you a guest blogger! Her pen-name is Penny Wood and below you can read her post about writing disabled characters into your book or story.

“Penny Wood is soon to be a homeschool graduate after being educated at home her entire life. She loves animals, writing, laughing with her sisters, and is a hopeless Pinterest addict. She blogs at A Southern Belle With Stories To Tell about movies, Christianity, writing, and anything else that pops into her mind. She lives in a tiny North Carolina town with her parents, two sisters, and her crazy dog, Buddy.”

Penny Wood Bio.jpg

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Have you ever wanted to put a disabled character in your novel but weren’t sure how? Maybe you were worried you’d “get it wrong”? In writing my novel, The Summer I Saw Blue Peak, I learned a lot about disability and how to execute it in writing form, and it’s something that’s been on my heart to write lately. It was a little nerve-wracking at first to me, too, but I’ve learned a few things over time and I’d like to share with you some tips on how to write them into your novel.

Research, research, research

Maybe some of you are groaning right now, but research really is the best way to learn how to correctly portray disabled people in your novel. You can find out about lifestyle, daily activities, hobbies, and technology through research. You’ll also discover that many stereotypes about disability are surprisingly not true. For instance, it is a common misconception that blind people touch people’s faces to figure out what they look like, but actual people who are blind will tell you over and over that this is not true. Every author’s worst nightmare is getting told that they don’t know anything about their writing topic. Don’t let that be you; do your research!

Ask them for yourself

This is probably one of my best tips. There are many disabled bloggers and vloggers out there who are very happy to talk to you about their disability if you ask. It will seem strange at first, but we authors are known to do weird things for our books, so you might as well get used to it. 😊 People are so kind and gracious when you ask. I love contacting real people because I get tailored answers to my questions and I end up with a new friend, too!

(Note: Please do not ask rude or private questions. It’s okay to be curious, but everyone knows that some boundaries should not be crossed. I am disgusted with some of the questions disabled people get asked that are really no one else’s business. Don’t go there, it’s just not nice.)

Remember that your character is a person first and disabled second

When writing a disabled character, it’s easy to get caught up in the “s/he is blind, deaf, et cetera” and forget to develop a personality for the character (this is even more important if the character is your protagonist.) The character still needs a rich personality, likes and dislikes, funny quirks, and not-so-nice flaws. They are a person just like everyone else and need to be treated that way as you develop them in your writing.

Don’t go with what you might have seen on a TV show or movie, or even another book about disability

Chances are, they probably don’t have it right. Disabled people are very much stereotyped, often by television and books. It is painfully obvious who has and hasn’t done their research when it comes to the disabled characters (if you’ve ever seen a western featuring a blind person, you know what I’m talking about). This goes back to research again, so no, watching your favorite TV show that has a disabled character in one episode does not count as researching it! 🙂

It’s probably not a good idea to actually pretend to be your character

If you walk around your house wearing a blindfold or earplugs for a year, you’ll probably end up in the hospital. Maybe, if you’re sitting still, you might close your eyes for a second to notice how amplified everything else becomes, or how it might frustrate you if you lived in a wheelchair and had to do everything sitting down (but don’t actually rent a wheelchair or walk around with your eyes closed). My friend Cheyenne Raphael made an interesting point when she said that when you do that, all you will be thinking about is how hard this is, and that’s not really how disabled people think.

I hope I have encouraged you to start using disabled characters in your stories or have helped you to continue writing about them. Keep up the good writing work and thank you to Megan Joy for letting me be a guest on her awesome blog!

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Thank you, Penny Wood, for being today’s guest poster!

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Have you ever written a disabled character into a book or story?

Have you checked out Penny’s blog yet?

Do you want to be a guest poster on Simply Megan Joy? Just contact me so we can talk!

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Megan Joy

A Dozen Ways to Keep Busy During a Power Outage

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A few weeks ago, I lived by candlelight. No electricity, no internet, no running water, no refrigerator, no heat, and no oven. It was fun for a while; it was like living in the past! However, after continually trying to get things done and failing miserably for four days, life got very frustrating, very fast. So, I’ve put together a list of fun things to do to keep you busy during a power outage!

1)      Collect candles. Gather every candle and lantern that you can find in the house. Also, for more light, gather some empty glass jars, put tea lights inside, and place them all on a big metal tray (not plastic) and carry it around from room to room for some extra light. Just be cautious and extra safe about where you put flames and never leave them unattended.

2)      Play a board game. Gather your family and use candles or a flashlight to illuminate the room. Scrabble, Clue, and Life are some fun games to try!

3)      Make music. You could sing or play an acoustic instrument. If it’s too dark to read music, try playing by ear.

4)      Play hide-and-seek (or sardines). Make special rules like: you can only hide on one level of the house, or only the seeker can have a flashlight. It can make the game so much more thrilling when the seeker has to go through a pitch-black house searching for everyone! Do not use any real flames when doing this! (p.s. no one is ever too old to play a game of hide-and-seek)

5)      Do a coloring page. Get some colored pencils and a coloring book. A power outage is a great excuse to do something you wouldn’t have time to do ordinarily, like coloring. I personally like this book!

6)      Read these verses. 

John 8:12 – “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Psalms 119:105 – “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

John 9:5 – “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Psalms 139:12 – “Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.”

Ephesians 5:8 – “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:”

7)      Write in a journal. Document everything that happens and write down how life is different with and without electricity.

8)      Play the story round game. Set a flashlight on the floor facing up and gather around it, (maybe with blankets and snacks). Have one person begin a story with one sentence. Then have the next person in line continue it, and so on until the story ends. Make it as wild or as mild as you wish!

9)      Make shadow puppets. Use a flashlight to cast shadows on the wall. There are so many different animals to do, you could make up a whole show. Make it a game by casting a shadow and having the others guess what it is.

10)  Read a book. It only takes one candle to illuminate a page. You could even read it aloud to someone, if you wanted.

11)  Make a list of all the things you have to get caught up on once the power is back on, things like, reset all the clocks, dispose of thawed out food in the refrigerator, and recharge all electric devices.

12)  Remember the olden days. Electricity is one of the world’s more modern discoveries! Up until the late 1800s, every family had to live without running water, electric lights, and heaters. They used candles or lanterns for light, wood or coal for warmth, and hand-drawn water every day! Thinking about it this way can even make us feel spoiled by all the many “luxuries” we’ve all been given, like flipping a switch to brighten a room, not to mention cell phones, computers, or toaster ovens!

Living in the past for a while has certainly made me more appreciative of what my ancestors once lived without, and I feel very thankful that I do not have to continue without power permanently. What are some other fun things that you could do during a power outage?

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Which board game is better: Scrabble, Clue, or Life?

Have you had a power outage yet this winter?

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Megan Joy

Poems of Old // All Nature Has a Feeling

Spring is on its way and I’m 98% sure that you are eagerly waiting for it, as I am. There’s just something outstandingly special about that season. It brings so many good feelings into my heart that I can’t exactly explain in words, which is why I decided to post this poem by John Clare, All Nature Has a Feeling. The first three lines are my favorite, as I find them so very true. It’s a short poem, nevertheless packed with little meanings and things to think about. Read away!

Poems of Old - All Nature Has a Feeling - simplymeganjoy.wordpress.com

All nature has a feeling: woods, fields, brooks

Are life eternal: and in silence they

Speak happiness beyond the reach of books;

There’s nothing mortal in them; their decay

Is the green life of change; to pass away

And come again in blooms revivified.

Its birth was heaven, eternal in its stay,

And with the sun and moon shall still abide

Beneath their day and night and heaven wide.

John Clare, 1800s

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Do you ever get those spring feelings?

What are some things you’re looking forward to in the new season?

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Megan Joy

12 Ways Get Your Book Started

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Writing a book means being inspired by something and then transferring that inspiration into words, sentences, and chapters. There is something that sparks our imagination and urges us to begin writing in fury, typing down the story that we so much want to tell. However, what happens when you’ve no idea how to begin your story and have no inspiration to get started?

Now, I’ve never had trouble starting a book, but instead my dilemma is with finishing them. I write out the plot, get more than half way complete, and suddenly a new story pops into my head. It seems as though there will never be enough time to write down all the stories I want to tell! Nevertheless, I do get stuck in my writing sometimes which calls for inspiration. So here is a list of twelve ways to find inspiration when you want to begin writing a book (or finish one!).

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Go on a spontaneous walk or plan out a long adventurous trek. Either one is sure to spark your inspiration. Let your feet take you to an unknown destination and enjoy your time venturing.

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Sometimes, reading a classic work of fiction can help pull us into the world of writing. It inspires us to mold our own stories and put together a plot of our own. Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, and The Secret Garden are some great classics to read.

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Yes, I’m sure we can all go back into our distant memories to recollect a time when to find someone’s phone number, you had to look it up in a book that was mailed to you once a year, called a telephone book. If you still have one laying around today, you may not be able to use it as it was originally intended, however it is very possible to extract some inspiring ideas from it. Open it to a random page and point to any last name. Turn to another page to find a first name to go with it. Do this over and over, and soon you’ll have a whole book’s worth of characters to write about!

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Playing a musical instrument can be so inspiring; whether it be a piano, violin, guitar, flute, ukulele, or yes, even a harmonica or recorder. Go outside and play; see if the birds sing along. Listen to nature and hear what it says! You’re bound to have something to write about when you come back inside.

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Create a story-inspiration board and pin any photo you come across that looks interesting. The pictures that urge us to know the stories behind them are the ones that give us inspiration for writing, so be on the look out for those. Also, you can always make those boards private if you don’t want to share them with your followers.

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Get onto Spotify and play your favorite instrumental track. Listen to your favorite movie scores or find something new! I’ve found it helpful to create a separate playlist for each of your stories; it definitely helps to get you into the world you’re writing about.

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It doesn’t matter if you aren’t an artist. The point isn’t to create a masterpiece, but to create something that will get your mind flowing and open to new ideas. Draw a mountain, a dog, a person; it really doesn’t matter!

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Pack snacks, pens, and a notebook, and take a trip into the nearest bustling city. Roam the streets, people watch, or find a little café to write in, and just take in everything that you see, and use it to propel you into your writing.

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I’m not kidding about this one. Not only are you doing something profitable but cleaning out your closet or work space can also provide you with tons of inspiration. You could come across old letters or memorabilia hidden away that spark ideas for writing. If not, the cleaning will bore you so much that you begin daydreaming about anything other than cleaning, giving you ideas for a book!

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Visit any thrift shop and look around. I’m sure you’ll find something inspiring. Go with a list of things to find, like a book dated before 1900, a vintage jewelry box, or old ice skates. Anything you find that interests you can be the starting point for a book.

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For me, some of the most inspiring moments happen when watching a really good movie. If you want to write a story set in the 1810s, watch Sense and Sensibility; not so you can copy it, but to draw ideas from it; how they spoke, dressed, and acted. There’s something so motivating in seeing a movie set in the era in which you intend to write!

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Talk with other writers and aspiring authors in person or through blogs. Sometimes just reading about what others are writing, will get you thinking about forming a plot of your own! It’s always fun to know what others are doing in their writing. Below you can find a list of writing blogs to visit for more writing tips and stories!

Reveries // Ruffles and Grace // Once Upon an Ordinary // Charis Rae // Invisible World // Claire Rachel // Liv K. Fisher // The Writing Writers // Forever and Everly // Peeking Beneath

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Do you enjoy writing?

What are you working on right now?

Do you think any of these 12 ways would be helpful?

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Megan Joy