Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Swallows and Amazons: A Book Review

Swallows and Amazons

Please welcome guest writer Emily Lock with a review for Swallows and Amazons, a series by Arthur Ransome from the 1930s. 

Arthur Ransome's delightful Swallows and Amazons series of vintage children's books sailed into my life when I was aged nine, as I opened my Christmas stocking. Set in the English Lake District and on the Norfolk Broads in the golden years between the two World Wars, the books gripped my imagination forever. The Swallows were the Walker children, based on a family Ransome had known. The Amazons were the Blackett sisters, an appealing pair of tomboys.

What I liked most about these stories was that the Swallows and Amazons and their friends behaved like real children, but lived in a completely different world from the one I inhabited. I'd camped with the Girl Guides, but the Swallows and Amazons had astounding freedom - camping alone on an island, going out at night and sailing wherever they liked without needing to ask permission. 

These children had names like Titty, Roger, Nancy and Dick (the modern significance of which went right over my head) and went to boarding schools. They ate peculiar old-fashioned foods like seed-cake (what was that?) and drank jugs of homemade lemonade instead of cans of Coke. They called their parents 'Mother and Father' and said 'Hurrah' instead of 'Hooray'. With mysterious codes and quirky bits of science thrown in, the stories made me feel I'd become part of an exclusive secret society.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Word of the Day: Crum-a-Grackle


Noun. Definition: An awkward or difficult situation.

Grace Harlowe

How you would use it:

"Hey, isn't that your ex coming down the street with his new girlfriend?"
"Yeahh. Well, isn't this a crum-a-grackle."
"You can say that again."

Source: The English Dialect Dictionary

Thursday, April 30, 2015

How To Tell If You Are in a Bobbsey Twins Novel

This post is inspired by The Toast's How To Tell What Novel You're In series.

How To Tell If You Are In a Bobbsey Twins Novel


  • A strange hermit who saved your life turns out to be the long-lost, amnesiac brother of your best friend, the storekeeper.
  • A strange hermit who didn't save your life turns out to be the evil man who stole china from your best friend, the old lady.
  • The foreigner did it.
  • You built an ice boat, once, and had a nifty time.
  • You once had a play-date at your friend's house and everyone thought you were kidnapped by gypsies.
  • You befriend a lovable foreman. 
  • You have boarded a train fifty-three times. You have had fifty-three train accidents.
  • A lumberjack with a secret confides in you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Freelancing: 3 Most Common Myths Debunked

How often have you come across an article titled something along the lines of "How I Make 100,000 dollars a Month--And You Can Too?"

Three men in a boat jerome k jerome

Sure, someone may be making that much from freelancing. But judging from the advice that is repeated ad-nauseum in such articles, it's clear most of these are just recycled articles that find their way to our facebook feeds on a regular basis.

Below are the top pieces of bad advice that are regularly given by people who just... don't know what they're talking about.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

How To Sell Your Novel In The First Page

If you've ever followed the three-act structure, you may have been tempted to place your inciting incident in the third chapter. After all, in a twenty chapter book, that comes about right. And it gives you time for exposition: developing the characters, the setting, the time... yawn.

Boy Writing

Leaving things till the third chapter won't just hurt your chances with your intended audience, which has become used to finding out right away what it's reading about. It will also hurt your chances with agents.

That's because agents don't want to see your entire book when you query. They don't want to see the first few chapters. In fact, most agents will only ask for one chapter, if you're lucky. And of that chapter, they may read one page.

So you need to have a killer first page (or first 250 words.)

Here are the components to a great first page:
  1. A first line that hooks the reader in. Here are some ways you can hook a reader in: be mysterious and withold information, give odd information, use odd language to convey information, and start in the middle of a scene.
  2. A well-developed character that readers can latch onto and follow. (Even if this doesn't turn out to be the main character.)
  3. The beginnings of a conflict (Even if this isn't the main conflict.)
  4. A distinct writing style that's all you. Try writing several short stories until you've found the writing style you'll want to use for your novel.
  5. A promise made to the reader. They should be able to draw general expectations about genre and story from the first page.
Does your first page have a first line, a well-developed character, a conflict, a distinct writing style, and a promise? If not, back to the writing board!

If you need help writing your first chapter or page, check out this brand new service.

Good luck and keep writing!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Translation: Les Petites Filles Modeles by the Comtesse de Segur 8

Previously in this series
This is a weekly series where I translate my favorite classic French children's novels. If you have any requests let me know in the comments! 
The Perfect Little Girls, or 'Les Petites Filles Modeles' was written by the Countess de Segur in 1857. It's the second novel in the Fleurville Trilogy, which also includes Sophie's Misfortunes and The Holiday.
Petites Filles Modeles Perfect Little Girls Les Herissons The Porcupines


Mme Fichini sent word that she was coming to dinner and that she was getting rid of Sophie by sending her in advance.
"Hello, my friends," said Sophie. "Hello, Marguerite! Why, Marguerite, are you avoiding me?"
"You got my darling Camille punished the other day," said Marguertie. "I don't like you, miss."
"Listen, Marguerite," said Camille, "I deserved my punishment. It's not nice to get angry."
Margueritte kissed her tenderly. "But it was for me that you got angry, Camille. You're always so kind! You never get angry."
At first, Sophie had turned red with anger. But when she heard Marguerite's kind words, she realized she had acted badly.  Turning to Camille, she said tearfully, "Camille, Marguerite is right. I did wrong by answering harshly to that poor little girl when she was only defending your strawberries. I provoked your rightful anger by pushing Marguerite away and throwing her to the ground. I should not have been so forceful. You did well by slapping me. I deserved it, I really deserved it. And you, my dear little Marguerite, forgive me, too; be generous like Camille. I know I was mean. But," she added, dissolving into tears, "I'm so unhappy!"