The Witch of Leper Cove by Deborah Bogen Book Review

The Witch of Leper Cove (previously titled The Wych of Lepyr Cove) takes place in Aldinoch, England between 1224 and 1226. The story centers itself around Lily Bigge and her younger twin brothers, Wyllym and Edric. The three Bigge children are orphaned and separated after their parents perish on a business trip. Lily stays with Alice, Aldinoch’s healing woman. Wyllym goes to work for a local wool merchant. Edric goes to the church to become an academic and one day a monk.

The children must cope with being separated and learn how to survive as orphans. Alice teaches Lily her way of healing and friendship, especially with lepers. Wyllym has to learn to be independent of his brother and come into his own. Edric must choose between scholarship and family. Everything seems to be going well for Lily and her brothers until Alice is accused of witchcraft.  Together the Bigge children and their friends have to find a way to clear Alice’s name to return her to the people of Aldinoch and Leper Cove.

A big appeal, for me, in The Witch of Leper Cove by Deborah Bogen, a poet and author of Landscape with Silos, was her use of world building for 13th century England. I don’t know what most readers know about 13th century England, but I certainly don’t know a lot of history on that time period. World building, the action of creating a setting in a world unfamiliar from ours, is important for a novel as much as it is for readers to understand the setting. Bogen does a wonderful job creating a believable world of life during the 13th century and the Inquisition.

 Of course there was nothing simple about ordinary life. Children died, husbands beat their wives, girls were raped, and boys died in wars for kings who cared nothing for their people. The world was often dark and cold, every year brought the fear of a bad harvest and the nightmare of babies crying in hunger. –Alice [174]

This passage doesn’t give a physical description of the world, but it shows the desperation and despair that can be seen through Alice’s eyes, something readers wouldn’t see from a younger narrator like Lily as clearly. Bogen uses the older characters, among other techniques, to her advantage to help reveal her own knowledge of the 13th century and build Aldinoch and Leper Cove.  For example, Bogen uses of the term dwart in place of belladonna in reference to the plant. The building of these places in The Witch of Leper Cove remind me a lot of the worlds built in a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel—like YA novels Divergent by Veronica Roth or Partials by Dan Wells. Only Bogen has to build in the opposite direction of time and build a world based on knowledge that is already known. To me, this technique shows a writer dedicated to portraying a realistic setting and, at the same time, makes it unique to the story.

My first reaction to The Witch of Leper Cove was not entirely positive. I saw some areas that I thought could use some more development, like the pace of the plot. As an avid reader of the YA genre and an inspiring writer/editor I believe pacing is very important when trying to hook readers, especially younger ones. It is almost an expectation for these types of books in this specific genre. As I gave myself time away from the novel and thought clearly about the novel, the more positive aspects I saw to the book. And it is those aspects that readers will like about Bogen’s Aldinoch and its people. This novel is not only a great addition to the Children’s and YA markets of historical and coming of age fiction, but is one all ages can enjoy reading.

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Happy Thoughts on #InPrint14

 

#InPrint14

A few weeks ago Ball State held their annual In Print festival. This year featured poet Natalie Shapero, fiction writer Mario Alberto Zambrano, and non-fiction writer T Fleischmann.  As I said in my previous post , this was the first year I actually rallied enough courage to go to the event. And it was worth it.  Hearing the words come from the author’s mouth paints the colored canvases in a different light. I know that is somewhat cliché, but it’s true. Take for example:

Syzygy

T Fleischmann’s Syzygy, Beauty

I had to read T Fleischmann’s Syzygy, Beauty: An Essay for class and I found it interesting and unique after first reading it, but I can’t say it was my cup of tea (I know, I need to stop with the clichés but they’re so much fun!). I honestly didn’t understand most of the pieces or the book as a whole. And yet after hearing T talk about his work and reading new things, I came to appreciate Syzygy and his words more. I understood where these experiences that shaped the book came from and I could see why it was a hidden gem (much like the other two author’s works). I don’t know my opinion would have changed if I hadn’t of went to the In Print festival.

One of the great opportunities that In Print gave us was the reading with the authors, but the event also featured a Q&A panel with the authors and visiting editor, Robert Stapleton from the literary magazine Booth. All the authors had great things to say and advise for their audience (which you can catch here). One of my favorite pieces of advice I took from the panel was:

 

(excuse my handwriting please) “Break away from the traditional roles when writing.”

“Break away from the traditional roles when writing.” (excuse my handwriting)

As a writer it is scary thinking you’re not “traditional” enough or don’t fit in with what other successful authors are putting out. But that’s the beauty of it: you don’t need to be traditional—you need to be different. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being traditional. What is important is to find what you like to write about and where you see yourself fitting in. And that is one of the things I loved about this experience—the positivity.

So, in the spirit of positivity, what can you think of that puts a smile on your face whenever you think about it? It doesn’t have to be about writing or anything In Print or college related, but it can be! I know for me it’s my family and this little nugget of cuteness.

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I hope you all are enjoying the days of Spring! If haven’t already (and if you want to check out more on In Print) Lindsay, Kate, and E. M. St. Claire have some great blog posts about their experiences at the event.

My Book Organization Voyage

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A few weeks ago I made this post about different ways to organize your bookshelf. I told you all that I was going to try each of these nine different ways to organize a bookshelf on my own and which one to keep. Well…I have to say I stopped organizing my bookshelf after only one time. I know, I know. I’m sorry. I backed out on my promise, but I was pressed for time and I learned that reorganizing over a hundred books is hard to do. Who knew?

I decided I wanted to organize them by spinal color because of my fascination with rainbows and colors. My organization adventure consisted of taking all of my books off my shelves, piling them together to create book towers, and then separating them into different “hue piles” as I referred to them as.

My book towers. When taking a picture the shortest tower actually fell on my foot.

My book towers. When taking one of the many pictures I took the shortest tower actually fell on my foot.

I had fun doing this…towards the beginning, but after a while I found myself getting frustrated. I wasn’t sure which pile I should put certain books in because the spine had multiple colors on it. I think the worst were the books with covers that had a face on it, like the Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, which wrapped around the spine. For the most part I resolved this dilemma by looking at which color the spine had the most of and put it into that pile.

And here is the finished product, after a lot of hair pulling (on my part) and some unplanned lap time (on my dog’s part).

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I think my shelf turned out great…well it at least looks better than the eye-sore it was before. I honestly don’t know if I want to change it at this point. I’ll get back to you all on that feeling after I pull the first book off the shelf since rearranging. But I did want to leave you all with a few things I noticed while organizing my books.

  • Organizing based on colors can be hard. As I mentioned this was probably my biggest obstacle. The best thing I learned from this experience is to go with what you think is best because, in the end, you are the person you are trying to please.
  • A lot of books have dark covers and have a fantasy element to them. I had a hard time trying to fit all of these books on the top shelf. Looking back I probably should have put them on the bottom shelf where there was probably more room. Oh well. C’est la vie. I did notice that many of the books I had in this pile had a darker tone or supernatural/paranormal theme to the books.
  • Many “romance” novels had pink or red covers. Now this is not necessarily true, but many of the books that I to have more of a romantic focus in it had pink covers. The more action packed, adventurous books on this shelf had a red spine. I’ll leave my opinion on this with an article Cathy posted.
  • Separating a book series is weird. It really is! I like a series to go together (being from the same author and all), but not every book in a series will have the same cover/spinal color. So if you are like me this may feel wrong, but I think you’ll find it worth it in the end.

So what do you guys think? Are there any trends you can see happening with cover/spinal colors and books? Anything from Katy Guest’s article you want to comment on? Sound off below.

What’s to come: Here in a few weeks I will blog about my first experience at the InPrint Festival here at Ball State. It’s been really great to be surrounded by these newly published authors and other writers but more on that next time.

Five Tips to Remember for Your First Interview

Two weeks ago I had my practice interview with Ball State’s Career Center. This was the very first interview I’ve ever done. Talk about walking nerves. The weeks before the interview were excruciating because of my apprehension. Even though I was tense, I tried not to think too hard about my nervousness the last days leading up to the interview because that would only make it worse. There really was nothing to worry about though.

The person I interviewed with was really nice and was very approachable. I felt like I was having a conversation about the things that interested me more than I felt like I was in an interview. My person was really wonderful. But there were things I did in my interview that I could have done better to help me stand out as a person of interest for the “job” I was applying for.

It’s because I could have done better that I want to share with you all some of the important things I came away from the interview with.

1.) Dress up. The first impression someone will get of you is what they see. So when trying to make a good impression, dress nicely and professionally. Wear suits with ties or a power suit if you are a woman. Wear light makeup and perfume/cologne. But don’t forget to be comfortable.

I wore a simple shirt with a black vest and pants.

I wore a simple shirt with a black vest and pants.

Normally I don't curl my hair, but for my interview I went ahead and did.

Normally I don’t curl my hair, but for my interview I went ahead and did.

2.) Have a resume on hand. First off you should have a polished resume  for the interviewer. But it never hurts to have an extra copy. Some of the best pieces of advice I was given about my resume were two things: 1.) you don’t need generalized skills on your resume like being able to utilize Microsoft word and 2.) to put your most unique/valuable skill at the top of your skills section on your resume. For me it’s the fact that I have handcoded HTML before. What’s your most unique skill?

3.) Try to set aside your nerves-if you have any. I went in there with the mantra in my head “I’m not going to be nervous. Don’t be nervous.” Normally this would make me more nervous but I felt going in with this attitude helped me stay calm. So if you do have nerves, what ways can you keep yourself calm?

4.) Try to find new ways to answer questions. This was one problem area I saw myself having. I kept repeating the same answers over and over and over. This doesn’t help you stand out. So my advice is to show up with multiple ways to answer questions because more than likely they will intersect each other.

5.) Just be you but on your best behavior. I know this is cliché to say but you are trying to get the employer to hire you. So why would you want them to hire some version you only put on for them in the interview? If you behave like yourself you will come off more genuine.

I hope that these five pieces of advice have helped you all some. For more ways to try to stand out in your interview, take a look at this article  by Amy Gallo, an editor at Harvard Business Review, who gives some good advice and more places for you to take a look at.

What’s to come: This coming week is Spring Break and that means I’ll be home. I know this may not seem like a big deal, but in my previous post I talked about organizing bookshelves and how I wanted to try a new way to organize my own—which is at home. So lookout for my next blog post where I’m going to try (hopefully) each of the methods I talked about and any that you guys suggested. I know I can’t wait to see what I come up with. Happy Spring all!

Never Ending Organization

A few weeks ago my classmate, Lee Bannister, blogged about her childhood bookshelf. I can share in her sentiments because the one bookshelf we had in our house was not filled with books, but with movies. VHS tapes to be exact. So growing up I’ve had to build my own library and bookshelf.

Now I wish I had a picture to show you all what my bookshelf started out like, but I don’t. However, I can show you what it looks like now. Voilà!

All the physical books I own, minus a few here and there.

All the physical books I own, minus a few here and there.

A little closer look.

A little closer look.

Now as you can see, my bookshelf is not very organized. It used to be, but I got the crazy idea I wanted to reorganize it one November night when I was home…and this was the result. Normally I have all my smaller books on top, like shown, and the rest below that. And each book is in alphabetical order by their author’s last name.

This seems to be the most common way to organize a bookshelf and it’s not a bad one. But it’s how my shelf has looked since I got it two years ago. So I went on a hunt for some tips on how I could rearrange a bookshelf. Some of the blogs or websites I found had some pretty neat ideas.

Here is a compiled list with 9 of those ideas.

  1. Alphabetical: Put your books in ABC order based on their title or by author’s name.
  2. Spinal/Book Color: Make an inverted rainbow! Organize your books based on the color of their spine to make any pattern you want. You could even try to make an image or symbol (or something much cooler)!
  3. Genre/Content: Separate your books based on the genres they are categorized in, either your own categorization or what the publisher categorizes them as. An idea for content would be to separate them by main characters: male protagonist vs. female, older protagonist vs. younger, etc. The possibilities are endless.
  4. Emotion: Organize your books based on your emotional response to them. This could be an interesting experiment if most of your books cause an emotional response. How would you organize them then?
  5. Publisher: Put your books in order based on their publisher. Now this you could do at random or by alphabetical order.
  6. Secrecy: Hide the spines of your books! That way whenever you are looking for a book, you have a fun guessing game. And maybe you’ll run into that one old book you love but might have forgotten.
  7. Chronological: This would be hard to do, but if you want to take the time to see when the books were published you could organize your shelf by year. Or even by when the setting of the book takes place.
  8. Most Used: Do you have a set of favorite books that you read often? Well why not put them together and organize your shelf by the books you read most often. You can even do this with your TBR pile.
  9. Spinal Poetry: This one seems really interesting and creative if you want to take a stab at it. Create a poem or even a story out of the titles of your books. What can you come up with?

So which organization method is your favorite? Is there a method you have that’s not on this list? I know I am going to try some of these the next time I’m home.

That Relationship Between Writer and Editor is Important

When trying to come up with something to talk about for this blog post, I went through the many stages of my own procrastination. Asking myself, “What can I talk about?!”. Talking to myself, “Oh, God, I don’t want to do this. Why did I have to be in the first group?” Overall I just had no hope in thinking I would have anything to talk about. I like to assume many writers or bloggers go through a similar process along with me (please say yes). This all comes down to my own fear about letting other people —people I know or don’t know—have any idea about what I think on a topic. But as I was preparing for Cathy’s Literary Citizenship class, I read these two chapters ”What Editors Want” and “What Authors Want” in The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner.

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Here is Lerner’s novel The Forest for the Trees with my pal Tigger!

I honestly don’t remember the first half of the chapter about what editors wanted, mainly because I decided to start reading it at three in the morning as I was getting ready for bed. I wouldn’t suggest this. But even though I don’t remember the content well, I know it kept me awake and reading. I remember I was excited to learn about the different types of things an editor goes through, because I want to be one sometime after I graduate. But I really only have a small idea of what goes on behind the pages I read in a book. And Betsy does such a great job in these chapters discussing her own experiences and those of others that my head is still spiraling with just the idea of what creates an editor.

Now I am sure I could make a list if I tried (and I may later at some point for reference) of criteria on what makes a good editor from these two chapters in Betsy’s book. But that’s not the point of the chapter—to tell writers or editors what they need to do in order to be successful and considered good writers or editors. No, what Betsy’s trying to do is help her readers take what they want/need from the knowledge she is presenting to them. And that’s wonderful; because as much as one might prepare for becoming an editor or writer, when the time comes that preparedness will only be a small portion to what will make them be their own type of success.

I know one of the first ideas in Betsy’s book that struck a chord with me—and the main reason I became excited to write this post—was towards the end of the editor’s chapter where Betsy said this about an editor and writer’s relationship:

An editor builds trust with an author through careful attention to his pages. Suggesting that a writer delete his words is excruciating to some, and the excision must be made with delicacy. (199)

AHHHHHHHH....AHHHHHHHH

This felt really personal to me because that is exactly how I feel a lot when I am in my creative writing classes and I have others reading my work. That anxiety from a writer’s point of view, which is something Betsy talks about in the author chapter, is horrible if I am being honest. At first. What I mean by that is the more a writer shares with others, the more open they will be to others comments. At least that is how it happened to me. I mean I went from this reaction

crying eating icecream

to this

anticipating

as I participated more in my creative writing classes. The anxiety is still there and will probably never leave, but there’s a special connection when someone is editing a piece of work and you both end up on the same page. Sometimes the experience is delicate and sometimes it’s not. I know for me I am much more honest and blunt on an essay or manuscript online than I would be in person. But it goes back to that saying “treat others the way you would want to be treated.” I’ve come to the point where I want people to shred my work apart (even if it hurts at the time) because I know my work will be better in the end. But the quote from Betsy reminds me that yes, shredding can be good, but being sensitive to the writer is just as important for their mindset as it is for a relationship between a writer and editor.

To wrap this up (this was way longer than I had planned) Betsy gives a lot of great advice to future editors that reminds them to be sympathetic to the writers that they chose and that choose them when it comes to working together. I can’t wait to continue reading this book and I hope that any future editors (or writers) will pick up it up because the more knowledge you have, the more you have in your arsenal.

I hope you all have a great day (or night if you are reading it when the darkness is rising)!

When did you decide to become a Literary Citizen?

 

adventure

The first time I heard about this class was last Spring semester when I had a few classmates talk about an internship for the Midwest Writers Workshop held here at Ball State every semester. I don’t remember much about what they said, but I remember thinking that it was awesome they were getting this opportunity and I wished I could have joined them. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was too scared to try for the internship. The next time I heard about this class was, again briefly, when I took Cathy Day’s Novel Writing Class last semester. When it came time to sign up for classes I saw this class of Cathy’s and I thought, “Why not? I love Cathy and this would really help me with my future career.”  So those were two of the main reasons I took this class when I had already taken a Special Topics class here at Ball State. And I feel like this class will help prepare me for a career with my English/Creative Writing degree more than most other classes I have taken here.

I’m going to be honest here and say my mind is frazzled about the readings (and with my other classes) so I can’t say much about them. But I really did like flipping through Austin Kleon’s Steal like an Artist. He gives some great advice about finding your identity as a writer/professional and being yourself. I would urge all writers to read this book if they have time.