Note: This blog is a reprise from the archives. Enjoy.
We are truly lucky to live in an era where information is available at our fingertips, quite literally. I’ve used Youtube and other online video as a wonderful tool to help me in my research.
How does one do historical research using video, you might ask? There’s a treasure trove of it out here from documentaries that are no longer available by any other means, to period recreations to tourist videos.
For example, in my current work in progress, Violette, a Rushbearing festival and the events surrounding it are key to the opening of the novel. I’ve never participated in a Rushbearing so I did a lot of research and downloaded some authentic period books to read up on it. But I wanted to know more about the “Morris Dancers” that were often mentioned as part of the celebration.
Easy. With the mighty Internet gods smiling favorably upon me, I hit across many recent tourist videos featuring current Morris dancers in England and period recreations. I was able to get a sense enough of what they do, what they wear, the steps of their dances, etc. in order to write the description for the scene in which they appear. Wonderful!
I’m so spoiled. Though I love the library, I love the convenience of not having to leave my cozy home more. I don’t know how past historical authors did it so well before the Internet. And on TYPEWRITERS, no less!
Some fun stuff I’ve run across recently:
Supersizers : The Regency part 1: Food
Pay close attention to the mention of Yorkshire Pudding at 8:15 ! My British grandmother used to make this for us and I loved it.
Because I’m enjoying this so much, I’m embedding all of them!
Part 2: Breakfast and the Prince Regent
Favorite quote from this part: “You are one club foot away from going the full Byron.”
Part 3: Bath
“Stilton cheese with optional maggots.”
Part 4: “Snout me up!”
“Every time we have someone around, you swap testicles and then I have to stab the poor blighter at dawn!”
Part 5: Swords at Dawn
“After 10 pints, then maybe… but not right now!”
“I’ll fart myself into a pauper’s grave!”
Part 6 The Grand Ball
“You want to keep your flap buttoned, or she’ll be at you.”
“I cant marry a man with a wig!”
“Using a hog’s tongue, I’m on a mission to flirt my way into marriage”
And, now for something completely different:
Secrets of the Manor House, a documentary published on PBS last week. Magnificent details about life in an English Country Seat.
Today I’m going to share a wonderful writer’s tool that I discovered several years ago. It started at the blog, Bookshelf Muse and grew into something so fantastic. It eventually became a book: The Emotion Thesaurus.
It is a resource for descriptions of feelings, emotions, settings, colors, body language, etc. for use while writing. I’ve relied upon it many times and the electronic version is great because it is searchable. Clicking on the cover below will take you to the Goodreads page for the book.
It is the ultimate aid in adhering to the well-known addage “Show, don’t tell.” I hope it will prove as useful to you as it was for me. Happy writing!
“Maybe, at the base of it… what creativity really is [is] just falling in love with the world” –Dewitt Jones
Some useful lessons to be learned about creativity:
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from them but also turn them to your advantage.
There is never just one right answer. Find the one (or several) that works best for you
Break out of your self-imposed ruts and patterns. Learn how to switch it up by straying from your comfort zone.
Take your problems and turn them into opportunities.
Find and hone your technique. “Vision without technique is blind”
Care deeply about what you are working on and put everything into it
Be willing to look beyond the ordinary and see something special.
A while back, I was in a large group professional development class put on by our school district. Like most any profession, corporate training (what we teachers call professional development) is a tedious but necessary part of the job. Teachers are also lifelong learners.
Fortunately, this corporate trainer knew when to pull out the big guns and attract everyone’s attention with a discussion about creativity and looking at problems and situations from a different angle. The training video he showed us was “Celebrate What’s Right With The World,” featuring National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones.
To say my socks were blown off was an understatement. In the video, Dewitt talks about focusing on the positive in the world and in every situation, using that positivity to work around obstacles and begin to see them as opportunities.
Dewitt shared his amazing photographs taken during his time with National Geographic and afterwords, relaying the stories behind them and truisms about how creativity is summoned from within, even when we think that well has run dry.
In “Everyday Creativity,” another one of his training films, he talks about seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. The bullet list above is from my notes from watching this film. Key concepts are blow:
View Dewitt Jones and his amazing photographs on Pinterest.
I don’t have a lot of storage space at my house. We live in a modest but very comfortable home with two rambunctious children and lots of stuff. Probably too much stuff. But I wanted to dedicate one quiet corner, near my writing space for my writing resources.
I loved the idea of having supplies and research available at my fingertips to consult when I need so I created my “little library” inspired by my writing friend, Tessa Dare‘s writing office. I don’t have an office but I have a large bedroom with a second-hand recliner nearby that makes a comfortable writing chair. So I cleared out a bookshelf in the bottom of my closet and created “Bren’s Writing Lair”(tm).
Above the top shelf (pictured above), I have my supplies and “go to” writer’s references (the ones I find myself pulling because they are most relevant to what I’m working on). I have my pens, white-out, pencils, erasers, LOTS of sticky notes, 4 x 6 index cards, scissors, tape and glue sticks, etc. I also always have a “running notebook” full of notes and back-story, planning materials, etc. For the work-in-progress, I also store this on the top shelf.On the shelves, I keep my historical and subject-relevant resources. Most of these pertain to the Regency period, English 18th and 19th century history and culture, geographical information (I have a historical atlas that I’m particularly proud of). There are Royal Navy resources as well. Not just because I’m writing about Navy Heroes but also because the RN from this period really interests me. There are some of the often-named “go-to” regency resources as well, such as Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, An Elegant Madness, What Jane Austen Knew and Charles Dickens Ate, along with some other treasures I’ve scooped up, like: In the Garden with Jane Austen, Tea with Jane Austen, The Lady’s Strategem, and Courtesans.
On the picture above this one, you’ll notice a brown bin on the bottom shelf. In this are my not-as-frequently consulted writing craft books and all of my manuscript pages (for at least 3 different versions) of my recently-completed Regency novel. I’m keeping the pages as a resource until they are no longer needed (hopefully once to book is published). They will then be happily recycled. Under them in the bin are the craft books that I own in paper version. I own many more in eBook format. I took a picture of the spines to give you an idea.Three of the newest additions to my library, of which I am extremely proud! Life in Nelson’s Navy, Our Tempestuous Day, and The Epicure’s Almanack.
My Christmas list this last year was made up only of books that I wanted and I told my family “I don’t care if it’s used, as long as I can read it!” One of them is a former library book, which kind of makes me guilty every time I look at it, like I have some massive fine I owe, or something. Some of these books are kind of hard to get so I was THRILLED that most of my list was filled (hint: If you plan to do the same thing, make sure you provide links to the books… makes it really easy for family members when they shop for you.)
Lastly, since I’m setting my historical novels in and around the historical county of Cumberland (which is now known as Cumbria), I was extremely astonished to learn the existence of this book, The Cumbrian Dictionary. I was absolutely over the moon when I discovered I could procure a copy for myself. It has proved an amazing resource.
So what does your writing space / reference storage look like? Feel free to post a photo link or description in the comments!
I do most of my writing time on my laptop, a Macbook which happens to be made of aluminum. And as aluminum is a conductive metal, it gets ice cold in chilly weather–or in an overly air-conditioned Starbucks (a coffee-fueled writer talking, here).
I can be all swathed in a comfy jacket, warm socks and scarf but if I’ve got my wrists resting on arctic metal, then it’s very difficult to concentrate and get to the work at hand. Conversely, wearing full gloves and typing is pretty much impossible.
There is a remedy! The fashion of the day has brought us the practical and useful fingerless gloves. I recently purchased a pair on sale at a local sporting goods store and they look something like this:
- Fingerless gloves let your fingers do the work & keep you warm.
I’m sure there are loads of lovely items on etsy you can peruse. But since I crochet I’m going to make these before the weather gets too nice to wear them: