Hybrid Books I Loved to Read with the Seasons

Hybrid Books I Loved to Read with the Seasons

Spring: Bluets by Maggie Nelson 

“This deepest blue, talking, talking, always talking to you.”

Maggie Nelson’s Bluets is one of my favorites due to its unwillingness to belong to any single genre. The poets call it poetry and the essayists call it a lyric essay, but then they will both agree it is neither. It swims between genres, washing up to shores, then sailing out again. Bluets is a story told in fragments, listed from 1 to 240. Fragments thinking, feeling, sensing, and seeing the color blue. 

Spring to me has always been a time of rediscovery and rebirth. A time when I no longer feel packed down, but am finally dredging through it all. Bluets is a journey of healing and growing. It’s the moments right when everything starts to unthaw, and we watch every water droplet take its own path back into the earth. 

Summer: Stranger Care by Sarah Sentilles 

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was sick and you took care of me, I was a prisoner and you visited me, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” 

Sarah Sentilles’ Stranger Care is one of those books you read and then realize you will never be the same again because it has become an intrinsic part of who you are. Stranger Care is said to be “a memoir about loving what isn’t ours.” It is a series of flash essays put together to share the story of Sarah’s love and grief felt while fostering her daughter Coco. I love this memoir because the essays could stand alone, but this story can not be told with a single essay. It shows you how to love bird, whale, tree, moon, child. 

I am a summer baby, so maybe that’s why summer has always felt like home to me. Summer is a time I am able to step away from the nagging responsibilities of school and life to appreciate the small things. Stranger Care is an ode to all of those small things. It’s a story everyone should read if they want to love their world more intimately. To learn how to love the incomprehensible things beyond their world. 

 

Autumn: Evidence of V by Sheila O’Connor 

“Reform V. Reform her pieces into story. To reform what I have left.” 

Sheila O’Connor’s Evidence of V is a fragmented blend of fact and fiction. It is a novel built around a void. The story of her own discovery of her unknown maternal grandmother who was sentenced to six years in a Minnesota state reform school for the crime of becoming pregnant at 15. O’Connor takes us along with her on this journey, showing us legal documents as if we are researching this history side by side. Evidence of V is a book of contrasts, holding a beautiful blend of truth and imagination alongside a harrowing story of exploitation and erasure.

Autumn is known to be a time when everything changes. Classes start up again; the leaves change, color-painting vastly different landscapes; and all a sudden the cold nips at our ears. Evidence of V feels like autumn. For Sheila, for V, for June, everything is changing. And as the sparsity of facts settle at our feet within the text, a coldness sets in as we realize the heart rendering truth that the rest of V’s story no longer exists. 

Winter: The Unwritten Book by Samantha Hunt

“Then a further quiet beat because their answer isn’t a word, isn’t even an answer but something full of silence, a broken sense that feels like the bellowing hush of empty space the moment after we finish reading a book.”

Samantha Hunt’s The Unwritten Book is unlike any other book I have encountered. It is a genre-bending work of nonfiction exploring ghosts in the broadest sense of the word. Through her essays, Hunt is always looking for clues and patterns, making connections. Like her grandmother, she plays with words, discarding and rearranging definitions. Most importantly, The Unwritten Book is an investigation of her father’s ghost book, an incomplete manuscript he wrote that was found days after he died. 

Winter feels like a time frozen over, where the snow hides everything away from the world. A time when you can dig and dig and dig through feet of snow, uncovering mysteries previously forgotten. This is what The Unwritten Book feels like. Blindly shoving your hand into a snow pile until you feel something, something that you can only infer about because it’s frozen, stuck and out of sight. But also instills a sense of wonder and magic that it deems to exist at all.

Whatever season you choose to start your literary journey in, I think you’ll enjoy these texts!

Meet the blogger:

AUSTIN MALBERG is a current senior at Hamline University, studying Creative Writing and Psychology. Her poems have previously been published in the Fulcrum Journal. Outside of school, she loves to read, play fetch with her cat, and mail letters to her friends and family. 

 

Retell Your Own Folklores and Fairytales

Retell Your Own Folklores and Fairytales

Growing up, I am pretty sure many people have heard folklore and fairytale stories. Stories are one of the oldest forms of entertainment in the world. Pieces like Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and The Three Little Pigs are all so well known that half the world has been exposed to their existence. Even if these stories may sound childish and much too fictional for older people, it would be a lie to say they were never a part of your life whether you liked it or not. I would like you to think about these questions: Do you remember what the first folklore or fairy tale story you ever heard was? How did you come to learn about it? What did you think about it then and how do you think about it now? After you are done thinking about these questions, let’s do some exercises with these old stories.

I would like to introduce to you a four-step prompt activity. When doing this activity, please keep away from electronics as much as possible and try to immerse yourself in your creative writer mode. Follow along and have fun!

1. Make a list of as many folklore stories that you have heard up until now. Take around one minute to make up the list. 

For example: Cinderella, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or The Three Little Pigs

2. Now that you have the list, circle three out from the list that you like or are more drawn to. Write a summary from beginning to end, for all three stories you chose. 

For example: A story about a young girl who was abused by her stepmother and step-sisters growing up. Her kindness eventually wins her a ticket to happiness when she is chosen by the prince to become his princess and they marry happily ever after.

3. After you are done with the second step, look over them again. As you are looking over them, make a list of things that you could twist in each story. 

A twist doesn’t have to be anything too big. It could be something about certain characters readers have never thought about or writing the story from the point of view of a character other than the main character. Or maybe you want to change the structure and/or form of the story. Give yourself three minutes for each story. 

4. When you are finished, look over the three pieces and choose your favorite. 

Take that piece and expand on it. Give yourself ten minutes. If you find yourself wanting to write more, you are more than welcome to continue.

Folklore stories and fairytales were a big part of my childhood and I believe for many other people’s childhood as well. But as experience builds up with age, you realize that not everything is as it seems. As a child, I used to believe that Cinderella was truly a pitiful character who finally received the happily ever after that she deserved. But as I grew older and saw more in life, I began to wonder about the behind-the-scenes. As a reader, you only see what the writer wants you to see. It is possible that their love at-first-sight did not last, or that Cinderella’s step-family wasn’t as bad as they were made out to be. To this day, I continue to think that there is more to the story than what the writer lets you see and this has generated many great ideas and stories.

Even though it may seem cliche, old school, or childish, sometimes doing something simple like this can lead to other great stories and ideas as well. So I hope you decide to keep the list of fairytale stories you made and revisit them like you did today one other day.

Meet the blogger:

KASHIA YANG is a senior at Hamline University with a major in English with a concentration in creative writing. She is a writer in progress who aims to one day finally give her stories a fitting beginning, middle, and end. When she isn’t working, she reverts into a bed potato, enjoying movies, TV shows, fiction stories, knitting, and writing story ideas.

Zelda Games That Have Inspired Me as a Writer

Zelda Games That Have Inspired Me as a Writer

Hey, listen! Last year, the sequel to Breath of the Wild, the latest Zelda game, Tears of The Kingdom—on May 12, to be exact. In honor of this anniversary, I had to reflect on the Zelda games that helped make me a writer and chose my career path. I would not be the writer I am today without wielding the master sword, the urgency of Navi’s voice erupting in my living room, and going on adventures with my favorite character of all time, Link. So, dear reader and writer, “listen!” And maybe try out one of these suggestions—these top three Zelda games will change your life. 

#3 Ocarina of Time

Ah, the classic of the classics. Even though I must admit I was tempted to put Wind Waker as number three, Ocarina of Time had to make this list. I know this game is nostalgic for many of us—I often love to replay this game to listen to the classic Zelda tunes we all love. The sound of the ocarina takes me back to the same time Link was a child of the forest protected by The Great Deku Tree. If your goal is to create a series with lore that goes deeper than the Kokiri Forest and classic characters that are loved for a lifetime, this game can be your inspiration. 

#2 Twilight Princess

The darkness of twilight emulates the touching story, characters, and atmosphere of Zelda’s The Twilight Princess. Throughout the game, there is an ominous gloom that changes Link between a human and beast form as he scavenges across Hyrule. Link is actively attempting to save his homeland while trying to distinguish between the hellish landscape that has wrapped its anguish around the kingdom. The Shadow Beasts in this game have stuck with me in my nightmares, as I too slash around like the wolf Link was, trying to wake up. If you are writing a fantasy, horror, science fiction, or anything with weird creatures, turn to this game for creature-building inspiration. This game has some of the coolest bosses I have played against. 

#1 Breath of the Wild

I purchased a switch just to play Breath of The Wild, and six years later, I’m still holding on to it, ready to play Tears of the Kingdom. If you are a true Zelda fan and have been playing these games forever, you know how vital world exploration was for us in this game. I felt like a true Hylian, and even though every game above has interconnected me with the Zoras and Gorons, I never felt the free will to create Link’s adventure how I wanted to as a Hylian. The storytelling is not only beautiful in this game, but it is urgent and fluent. 

Additionally, the gamer finally gets to see Zelda in a much different light than many of the other Zelda games have given her—she’s strong, determined, and more self-sufficient than ever. If you are looking for world-building and character development inspiration, look to this game. 

Honorable Mention: Majora’s Mask

There’s much we can learn from video games. With my knowledge of the Zelda franchise and the accumulated inspiration from the storytelling of these video games, I’d say to you, writer, “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.” Please, take these video games with care and swing them like the master sword onto your paper; watch your words flow like the gold of the triforce. 

 

Meet the blogger:

HANNA MCDANIELS is an upcoming undergraduate at Hamline University. She majors in English with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in professional writing.  She is a massive lover of words and storytelling. In her free time, you’ll find her writing about another world or heavily annotating horror and science fiction novels. 

Words: Threads of Identity and Understanding

Words: Threads of Identity and Understanding

Isn’t it strange how words work in our world? Life is a story that invites us to read between the lines of our everyday experiences. Words are like threads, weaving together the fabric of our reality. Language impacts not just how we interact with the world, but our mindset towards it too. When we pose a question or share a statement, we’re translating our thoughts into words, expressing our inner world through the language we use. In this way, our conversation becomes a unique text, where the ideas, emotions, and intentions encoded in words form the basis of our shared reality. Sometimes the things people say are unclear or abstract, but specific words help us uncover their deeper meanings. 

Decoding words shared in conversations can feel like deciphering a cryptic code, unraveling the layers of meaning. Especially when that meaning can be misunderstood. I often look at my two-year-old daughter and wonder how language is going to shape her identity. Is she going to be Chinese American or American Chinese? At some point every word, every sentence will become a puzzle piece that she’ll try fitting into some mosaic of her daily experiences for her to have her own answer. My goal is to introduce her to as much literature as humanly possible in a short amount of time, praying that the reading will sharpen her analytical skills, enabling her to recognize patterns and motivations so that she can more easily illuminate the hidden subtext of her life. So that when someone says to her, “You’re reading too much into it,” she’ll be equipped with the appropriate skill sets to negotiate her identity within any environment

In my journey as a creative writing student, I’ve taken more time to grasp how literacy empowers individuals with agency. My delayed realization has gifted me a unique perspective on the power of language. It’s not just about reading words on a page; it’s about finding my voice, expressing thoughts and beliefs, and moving in the world with confidence. I can’t wait for the day I can start to share some of my favorite pieces of literature with my daughter, Future Home of a Living God (Louise Erdrich), Kindred (Octavia Butler), & Unabashed Gratitude (Ross Gay). It’s a list that needs adding to, but I have time to add to her library. It’s those books that showed me the power of words and how they can leave lasting impressions.

Words are a reflection. Spoken, read, heard, recited, or sung, words spread globally. We can speak inclusively, exclusively, fearfully, happily, and frustratedly. When we recognize the strength of understanding the connotations of words, we become better listeners and therefore better communicators. But first, let’s learn to be kind to ourselves, use words within our inner dialogue to attract the language that allows us to reflect a positive environment.

Meet the blogger:

TRAVIS HENDERSHOT is a poet who is recovering from working in manufacturing for a decade.

Harnessing the Power of the Absurd

Harnessing the Power of the Absurd

Writing inspiration can come from so many sources, but what about from your own subconscious? 

It’s easier (and more fun) than you might think. The Surrealists were notorious for using their subconscious minds as a way to inform their creative process. Their methods often took the form of parlor games—simple drawing or writing activities that could be played with a small group of friends. Oftentimes, the work that resulted from these games was nonsensical, bizarre, or just downright absurd. But that isn’t always a bad thing! Sometimes allowing yourself to write in the realm of the absurd and to create unusual, unrefined work can be a great way of approaching ideas from a new angle and finding directions to take your writing in that you may have never thought of otherwise.

Let’s explore some of the various games played by the Surrealists, and how they can be applied to your writing:

The Exquisite Corpse

This is perhaps the most famous Surrealist parlor game of all. For writers, this is played by writing a few sentences, covering most of what you’ve written up so that only the last sentence or so is visible, and then passing your work on to the next player. As the game goes on, a story is assembled between writers who have only a limited understanding of what everybody else wrote. As a result, the story can take rapidfire logical twists and turns, contradict itself multiple times over, or introduce bizarre characters and events. When you’re done, you can either accept your finished Exquisite Corpse as a self-contained story, or you can always go back and write further drafts inspired by the story you created, expanding upon elements you enjoyed and getting rid of elements you didn’t care for as much. Give it a try!

This game can also be played by drawing rather than writing—in this version, the first player draws a picture on part of a piece of paper, folding it over so that only a small portion of what they drew is visible, and then passes it on. The process is repeated until the drawing is done, at which point the players can unfold the paper and see their finished creation! This version of Exquisite Corpse can also be played online, on websites such as Monsterland

Automatic Writing / Automatism

This game has a much simpler premise, and can be played solo. The goal of automatic writing is to write completely without restrictions, just putting words onto paper without considering narrative or logical order. This is a form of spontaneous creation that the Surrealists were very interested in, as they believed that it allowed them to access a purer, less diluted form of the creative subconscious. (You may be starting to pick up a few commonalities in what the Surrealists were into by now). You can start with a prompt, a particular image, a feeling—whatever strikes you. This can be a very useful method for generating lots of ideas which you can later revisit and expand upon in future pieces. Plus, it can be intimidating to try and “nail it” on your first draft, which is why this technique can be fun and refreshing!

Similar to the Exquisite Corpse, automatism can be applied to writing, drawing, or both!

Dada Poetry

Though this technique is rooted in Dada and not Surrealism, the two movements were closely interconnected and shared many creative aims regarding the deconstruction of rational thought and logic (although certainly not without differences in approach). This particular technique was practiced by Tristan Tzara, one of the pioneers of the Dada movement.

For this, you’ll need any piece of printed writing that you don’t mind sacrificing in the name of art. A newspaper article, page from a magazine, or even some of your own writing will do. You’ll need to cut each word out individually, put all of the words in a bag, shake gently, and take them back out, writing them down in the order that you pull them. This expands upon the obscurities of the previous two games by incorporating the element of totally random chance. You may find that your newly scrambled piece of writing might make sense in interesting ways! If you wish, you can even rewrite and reassemble your absurdist poem however many times it takes for you to end up with a piece of writing that you truly love.

Hopefully some of these methods provide you with fresh ideas to explore in your writing practice! Have fun, and remember to keep it weird! 

Meet the blogger:

MAX RIDENOUR is a senior at Hamline, majoring in graphic design and minoring in creative writing. They like to keep their hands in many creative pots, between visual art, design work, and involvement in the Twin Cities DIY music scene. Max finds inspiration from many sources, including but not limited to: street art, Studio Ghibli movies, claymation, speculative evolution, and Internet oddities. 

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