“Women Writers Wednesday” Meets “Whom I’ve Been Reading”: Naomi Novik

Sometimes you read a book that defies some of the more basic “rules” of writing, or one that’s outside your usual category, but it works for you in so many ways that you can’t help but tell people about it. Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver, which I just finished reading on vacation last week, embodies both of these for me.

This book follows Novik’s Uprooted in what I hope will become a series of standalone novels. Both these excellent stories take familiar western European fairy tales and then transform them into an uncanny valley version of themselves, blow them up and out into something so original that you might not recognize the source material in it. Whereas Uprooted played fast and loose with “Beauty and the Beast” in a medieval Slavic world with magic, Spinning Silver borrows key elements of “Rumpelstiltskin” and drops them in the middle of…Russia perhaps? At the time of horse-drawn wagons, the Jews as money-lenders in walled communities inside of walled towns, the tsar and the boyars.

And how does this story break conventional wisdom? It’s a multi-POV novel where all POVs are told from the first person, and new perspectives come into the story late in the novel. Yet all the voices are distinctive and clear, and they all enhance the story well. This is a novel where marriages are strategic and the three young women at the center of the story grow and think and create agency within the limits of their world and the situations, magical or mundane, they find themselves in.

Spinning Silver falls squarely in the YA category, which I often enjoy but which is not usually my very first choice. It doesn’t shy away from genuine violence now and then, but those scenes are vital and artfully crafted, and I could easily recommend this book to any sharp reader as young as late middle school. If I could find a way to weave it into the curriculum for one of my high school classes, I would. The writing is gorgeous, and the structure of the novel really lends itself to deconstructive analysis as a model for what works.

And for those of you who like a long book for your money, this one will do — without feeling like its pacing drags. You should also look into Uprooted if you like fairy tales, and if you like alt-history, Novik’s Temeraire series is particularly charming: the Napoleonic Wars fought from the sky on the backs of dragons.

Spinning Silver won the 2019 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel (also in 2019). I am just not remotely surprised.

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Monday Earworm: Taylor Swift

I don’t always love all of Taylor Swift’s music, but I do like a lot of it, and her newest single is just mahvelous.

 

 

And just for fun — if you’re like me and think analysis is fun — check out this explanation of most of the Easter eggs in the video. Are there any that they missed? I can think of one; if you can too, leave it in the comments!

Happy Monday!

Monday Earworm: Eric Carmen

Over the weekend we started watching the third season of Stranger Things. I love this show; the writing and acting have always been so good. I’m not a fan of horror myself, so this show is definitely the creepiest thing I’ve ever willingly watched on television.

I admit, though, the first episode of S3 felt a little transitional to me, but maybe that’s because the incredible friendship dynamic that feels to me like the foundation of these characters wasn’t solid in episode 1. Adolescence is rough stuff. This is not a show I binge-watch (I almost never binge-watch anything), so I’m hoping things will get better. Please, no spoilers.

But anyway, the 80s are on my mind — 80s music in particular — and this song is now stuck in my head. The video for it is so cringe-worthy, it becomes almost funny while still making me feel a little embarrassed for having gone through that decade in the first place. And now I’m inviting you to share my hilariously melodramatic misery.

What’s your favorite amusing cringey moment from this video? Tell us in the comments!

 

 

In Which I Join The Instagram Situation

So this week I branched out and did something new: I joined Instagram. I’ve resisted it for a long time because I wasn’t sure I could keep up with it. It’s hard enough to find time to post anywhere on social media — you, dear blog readers, are no doubt aware of my lack of free time! — but I think I’ve learned enough about how to do it and how to plan to do it that it won’t be onerous. And honestly, even though it’s been just a few days, already I think it’s pretty fun.

So if you’re on IG, pop on over and give us some love. Here I am over there. You may expect to see photos of my cats, my handmade jewelry, and my paintings, as well as whatever else strikes my fancy. Enjoy!

Monday Earworm: Florence + The Machine (and My DFWCon Wrap-Up)

I’ve been a little absent on the blog this past month or so because I’ve been traveling quite a bit for my writing. You’ll hear about some of my trips a bit later because I’m also on book deadline and neck-deep in edits for two projects. Wheee!

Last weekend, though, I attended DFWCon in the Dallas area, which is my favorite writing conference ever. It’s the only one I still make sure to attend every year, and it was recently voted the Best Writing Conference in Texas, so there’s that. (You can already register for next year, by the way, and the super early bird price lasts until July 6th. I recommend it. Just click on register and choose the 2020 option from Eventbrite.)

Aside from pitching to agents and seeing a bunch of my friends who don’t live in Houston and having the chance to network with other people in the writing industry, a good conference gives me the opportunity for professional development. Sometimes this means classes on craft, and sometimes seminars on the business side of writing. (I don’t want to give away too much just yet on projects in the works, but there’s a strong chance you’ll find Instagram and a podcast in my future.)

One of the highlights of the conference this year was meeting and hanging out with this guy, whose blog is one of my very favorites. His books on writing craft are also top-notch fun.

Chuck Wendig is really excellent.

Among the most fun classes I attended there was Liara Tamani’s Poetic Prose, a subject I hold near and dear as a cross-genre writer. She talked about what makes lyrical prose stand out and gave us some exercises on how to create it ourselves. Although this is a subject I already know, I liked having the exercises to jumpstart my creative voice at 8:00 on a Sunday morning. I may be super conversational on the blog in an earworm post, but crafting lyrical prose in my more formal creative work is fun.

On the way home from Dallas, this song came on my iPod, and when Aaron commented on its layers, it occurred to me that some features in it are a pretty good example of this kind of writing. What’s your favorite line in this song? Leave it in the comments!

Also, if you have any favorite Instagram accounts or podcasts, leave those in the comments too. I’m interested.

 

 

Monday Earworm: Genesis

I haven’t been posting this month because I was traveling. I attended the excellent Moss Wood Retreat, a generative writing retreat that was just an amazing experience. Again. I’ll tell you more about that later, when I’m not frantically editing the novel I’m going to pitch this coming weekend at DFWCon!

In the meantime, have an earworm. This song embedded itself in my brain while I was driving between Boston and Cape Rosier on my trip. I was entranced by this video back in the day, when the Sid and Marty Krofft puppets were The It Thing. They even had their own political satire show every weekend that aired after Saturday Night Live. Good stuff.

Enjoy. Take it to heart. Peace out.