Weekly Writing Post #45

Theodor Geisel published over 60 books during his lifetime, 44 as Dr Seuss. He remains one of the most beloved children's authors in the world. In 1957, he wrote How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, which ten years later, on this day, was first aired as an animated television special. It has since gone on to become a perennial holiday tradition in some form or another (Ron Howard directed a full length feature of the story in 2000, starring Jim Carey as the Grinch).

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is about how, even when all of their material gifts end up in the Grinch's bag, the people of Whoville still celebrated Christmas because really, you can’t actually steal Christmas. Christmas is a good feeling and sense of community that lives inside all the Whos, gifts or no gifts. Which is why the Grinch's plan fails (spoilers! ;)).

So in the spirit of Dr Seuss and his Grinch, this week’s prompt is a reminder that the whole ‘buying’ and ‘receiving’ thing isn't the point. In fact, it's entirely beside the point. However you celebrate this season, be too busy celebrating to worry about the things a lot of people think this time of year is about, like expensive (or cheap) gifts. Enjoy time with your loved ones and be like the Whos, who came together despite their differences in age or opinion and have a wonderful Christmas, St. Lucia Day, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Omisoka and Yule.

Roberto Nickson

Weekly Writing Prompt #41

This week, one of my favourite books, Little Women, celebrated its 150th anniversary. Before Little Women, books for young people were mostly preachy tales in which the good and virtuous were rewarded and the wicked punished. Girls, in particular, were little more than dull collections of moral qualities.

Then came the four March sisters — trying to be good but forever getting into trouble provoked by their particular character flaws: Jo’s hotheadedness, Meg’s vanity and Amy’s shallowness. Beth, as the stock ‘angel’ character, appears to have no flaws except perhaps her selflessness, but we all know what happens to Beth..

The book, especially in its creation of Jo — an independent, unconventional, irreverent and impatient young woman, devoted to her writing and proud of her ability to earn money from it — has been an inspiration and a favourite of many since it was first published. Though often criticised for her selfishness, Jo has always appealed to tomboys, rebels and freethinkers, her passion for creativity providing aspiring writers with a glimpse of how to operate in the world.

This week’s prompt comes from Jo in the hope it inspires you to write as well.

Annie Spratt

Weekly Writing Prompt #40

This week, in 1960, bookstores across Britain were inundated when the controversial novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover went on sale for the first time. Penguin Books, had just emerged victorious from a sensational six-day trial where the company was accused of violating the Obscene Publications Act by publishing DH Lawrence’s story.

Britain was about to be overwhelmed by the ‘Swinging Sixties’ and this became one of the first signs of a new age of freedom and emancipation. The sexually explicit novel about an affair between an aristocrat’s wife and his gamekeeper was published in Italy in 1928 and in France the following year, but it had always been banned in the UK.

After the go-ahead from the court, Penguin couldn’t cope with demand and rationed its first 200,000 copies to booksellers across the country. All were sold on the first day. 300 copies sold from Foyles, the biggest bookshop in London, in the first 15 minutes and took orders for another 3,000. Within a year of the trial, Lady Chatterley’s Lover had sold two million copies.

In 1930, at the age of 44, Lawrence died of tuberculosis, defending his book to the last against those who accused him of pornography. He could hardly have imagined the sensation and vindication of the trial 30 years later. I wonder how he would feel about the books of today such as Fifty Shades of Grey.

This week’s prompt comes from the still controversial novel. Have you read it?

Brandi Redd

Weekly Writing Prompt #38

Happy Hump Day! Which reminds me of a book. Have you ever read Tracks, by Robyn Davidson? Before the hype of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (which I also love), Australian Robyn Davidson, trekked the Outback from the Glen Helen Tourist Camp to Hamelin Pool, Western Australia, 2,700 kilometres, In 1977. She hiked through the hot sun with her four camels and her dog, Diggity, for nine months (after three years of preparation in Alice Springs). According to Davidson (reluctantly dubbed ‘The Camel Lady’), although the trip appeared to be a case of ‘inspired lunacy’, there was a method to her madness, as she sought to test and push herself to the limits of survival.

It became a seminal trek that would inspire other adventurers, spawn a movie adaptation and see her memoir never out of print.

The book is as much about Davidson’s pilgrimage as it is about the Australian landscape and I can’t recommend it enough. This week’s quote comes from the opening page.

Annie Spratt

Weekly Writing Prompt #34

It’s Tolkien Week! The annual festival that honours the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and his son and editor, Christopher Tolkien. First celebrated in 1978 by the American Tolkien Society, Tolkien Week is the calendar week that contains September 22, Hobbit Day.

September 22nd is the Birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, two characters from Tolkien’s popular books, The Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings, in which Hobbits, typically between two and four feet tall and nothing like your usual hero, accomplish great feats and amazing acts of courage.

Fans celebrate with anything from going barefoot all day and having seven meals (yes please!), to literary discussions and readings, Lord Of The Rings movie marathons and throwing parties in honour of the ‘Long Awaited Party’ at the start of The Fellowship Of The Ring with merriment, feasts, games, costumes and fireworks.

So to celebrate the humble Hobbit (and one of my favourite stories), this week’s prompt is the first line from The Hobbit.


Weekly Writing Prompt #33

Tomorrow is Roald Dahl Day! You may not be aware, but Roald Dahl was more than a fabulous story teller. He was also a spy, a fighter pilot, a chocolate historian and a medical inventor.

But it is his stories that he is best known for. In 1961, James and the Giant Peach was published followed by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Dahl even wrote screenplays for the James Bond movies and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He has published many other classics, including Danny the Champion of the World, The Enormous Crocodile, Matilda and My Uncle Oswald.

Dahl was famous for his inventive, playful use of language, which was a key element to his writing. He would invent new words by scribbling them down before swapping letters around. He didn't always explain what his words meant, but he knew that children would work them out because they often sounded like a word they knew. For example, something lickswishy and delumptious is good to eat, whereas something uckyslush or rotsome is not definitely not! He also used sounds that children loved to say, like squishous and squizzle, or fizzlecrump and fizzwiggler.

Today, The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre continues his extraordinary mission, such as celebrating Roald Dahl Day, to amaze, thrill and inspire generations of children and their parents.

I hope this week’s prompt inspires you to create your own amazing story.

Johnny McClung

Weekly Writing Prompt #29

Charlotte Brontë sent her manuscript of Jane Eyre to a publisher in London on this day in 1847 from the little railway station near her home at Haworth in the north of England. Fearing prejudice against a female author, Charlotte chose the pen name of Currer Bell. The first review of the novel from the Quarterly Review of Smith, Elder & Co was mixed, stating that it was 'a very remarkable book...it is impossible not to be spell-bound'. Their thoughts on the character of Jane, however, were decidedly less positive:

Jane Eyre, in spite of some grand things about her, is totally uncongenial to our feelings from beginning to end. We acknowledge her firmness – we respect her determination – we feel for her struggles; but, for all that the impression she leaves is that of a decidedly vulgar-minded woman – one whom we should not care for as an acquaintance, whom we should not seek as a friend, whom we should not desire for a relation, and whom we should scrupulously avoid for a governess.

Nevertheless, many applauded the work. It has even been said that the author William Makepeace Thackeray was so moved by it that he wept. Over the years, it has remained consistently in the bestseller lists and claims an affectionate place in bookshelves across the world, including mine.

This week's prompt is one of my favourites from the book. Enjoy!

Mahir Uysal

Weekly Writing Prompt #28

I love movies based on books but I also love movies based on the authors of those books. One of my 'to watch' movies right now is Mary Shelley.

When Shelley (then Godwin) was 18, she had a dream that changed her life. It was in 1816, during a rainy holiday in Lake Geneva, Switzerland, with poets Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley (her future husband) and the physician John Polidori. Shelley and the group entertained themselves by reading from a book of German ghost stories. Afterwards, Byron set a challenge; they would each write their own ghost stories and vote for the winner. Shelley based hers on a dream. 

I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion.

Byron described her story as 'a wonderful work for a girl' (urgh!) and she decided to turn it into a novel. It was considered such a masculine novel that when published anonymously in 1818 (as was common for works written by women), many people attributed it to her husband. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, was an instant hit. It is now one of the most popular gothic novels of all time and it was written by a teenager.

This week's prompt is a quote from the very book that sparked an entirely new genre; science fiction.

nour c

Weekly Writing Prompt #26

This week would have seen the birthday of the author Aldous Huxley, born July 26, 1894. Best known for his 1932 dystopian novel, Brave New World, Huxley had a challenging early life. During his teenage years, his mother died of cancer, his brother committed suicide and he began having problems with his vision. In an interview with The Paris Review, Huxley explained that he was almost completely blind during his late teens: 'I started writing when I was 17, during a period when I was almost totally blind and could hardly do anything else. I typed out a novel by the touch system; I couldn’t even read it'. He eventually regained enough of his vision so he could read and study using a magnifying glass. In 1942, Huxley wrote The Art Of Seeing, a book in which he described how he regained his sight.

In the early 1920s, Huxley contributed articles to magazines, including Vogue, Vanity Fair, and House and Garden. He wrote on a broad range of topics, 'everything from decorative plaster to Persian rugs'. He recommended this sort of journalism as a great apprenticeship into writing claiming that 'it forces you to write on everything under the sun, it develops your facility, it teaches you to master your material quickly, and it makes you look at things'.

On November 22, 1963, Huxley died of cancer of the larynx, after been diagnosed three years prior. If this date seems familiar to you it's because he died on the same day that former US President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas. Huxley's death received very little notice due to the shooting, as did the death of British author C.S. Lewis who also died that day.

The moral of this week's prompt is that no matter the hardships you may encounter, be it in your writing journey or any other goal, if you're brave, work hard and take every opportunity that comes your way, you might just get there.

Tyler Nix

Weekly Writing Prompt #21

This week in history sees the first patent of the typewriter. It was hardly an original idea and there had been patents registered by others for machines like a typewriter. But credit for the first modern version goes to Christopher Sholes, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1868.

The problem with his first machine though was that the keyboard was arranged alphabetically, as anyone would expect then. But as operators learned to type at speed the metal arms holding each letter often became entangled. 

Sholes studied the problem with his partner Amos Densmore and worked out which letters were most often used. They then put them as far apart as possible on a new keyboard, reducing the chance of clashing arms as they would be coming from opposite directions. And thus the 'Qwerty' keyboard we all know, was born. 

Thanks to Sholes and Densmore, Remington began producing typewriters just a few months later. One of their early customers was Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, one of Twain’s most well known works, published in 1876, is widely believed to be the first novel ever written on a typewriter.

So this week's prompt comes from that very book. Enjoy.


Weekly Writing Prompt #18

On this day in 1778, writer, philosopher and rebel, François-Marie Arouet, or as you may know him, Voltaire, died at the age of 83. Voltaire was one of the greatest writers that France has produced, but his caustic wit and unconventional ideas on religion, ethics and the State often got him into trouble.

In 1716 he was exiled from Paris for writing poems that mocked the French Regent's family. His banishment was ineffective, however, because a year later he produced more poems suggesting that the Regent and his daughter had an incestuous relationship. As a result, he was imprisoned in the Bastille for 11 months.

Voltaire then went to live in England but the French Government continued to pursue him, censoring or suppressing much of his work and ordering some of his books to be burned. In 1734 he made a break from France and moved to Switzerland where he spent much of his later life.

He lived an extravagant life thanks to the French lottery. Voltaire teamed up with mathematician Charles Marie de La Condamine and other gamblers, exploiting a loophole in the way the lottery was run so that their syndicate repeatedly won and they all became very rich.

In 1778 he returned to Paris for the first time in nearly 30 years to oversee the production of one of his plays but within a few months he was dead. 

As he lay dying, the great French writer noticed that the lamp next to his bed was violently flickering and flaring up. 'What? The flames already?', were said to be the last words he spoke. Earlier, when a priest asked him to renounce Satan he refused, allegedly declaring: 'This is no time to make any more enemies!'

And so it is here I give you this weeks prompt from Voltaire (allegedly :) ).

Jonny Caspari