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5 Exercises to Escape Writer’s Block

Hey everyone! I’m Victoria Valley, one of the two new interns at Cambridge Editors, and a Graduate Student from Emerson College’s Editing and Publishing Program. If you are like me and enjoy both reading and writing, then you may have suffered from the dreaded affliction, Writer’s Block. If you have yet to experience it, allow me to explain: writer’s block is, the inability to write or to think of what to write. Also, some who glare at their manuscripts whilst sitting in the corner of their offices have been known to call it “Hitting the Wall” or “The Pit.” If this is true for you, here are five – yes five ­– ways to cure yourself of writer’s block.

  1. Walk

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Henry David Thoreau, is said to have walked up to four hours a day to help his writing. A leader in the Transcendental Movement, he created an essay known as “Walking” or “The Wild,” which proclaimed that modern people are too distracted by civilization and that allowing our natural side to the forefront of our minds would help create a much needed balance in our lives. So let those juices flow! Get up! Allow yourself to forget the paragraph you desperately need to write and enjoy nature. You don’t need to walk up to four hours a day! A simple 30 minutes might make all the difference. This exercise was a life saver for me as an undergraduate! I found it difficult to start my day and was also extremely shy. Forcing myself to walk outside for at least 30 minutes a day not only helped me with my writer’s block but also helped me to explore my neighborhood. By incorporating walking into your life you not only can escape writer’s block but you can also explore your neighborhood as well!

  1. Outline Your Ideas.

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Now let’s change the format. Instead of re-writing the same five sentences, draw a picture. Start by drawing a circle and writing your idea on the inside. Create five outer circles with arrows pointing to each of them. Now set a timer for one minute. In the span of one minute, write every random word that comes to mind in each of the outer circles. Repeat this process three more times. The first few bubbles tend to hold little meaning for me, but the more concepts you create, the easier it is to form new strings of ideas.

  1. Experience Art.

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Go out and find a local art gallery. As you walk around the exhibit, write down a few lines of your first impressions on each piece. If you are unable to walk through a gallery, find an art website and write down your first impressions. Writing will always inspire art and vice versa. By focusing on visual thoughts, your mind will hopefully explore new inspirations and ideas.

  1. Use Writing Prompts.

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Writing challenges can inspire new ideas and allow your brain to work outside the box. These challenges come in large variety and are available for every genre. Writing prompts are easy to find over the Internet and are generally free as well.

Here is one to get you started: Pretend you are the owner of a large company. You are forced to fire one of your top executives. For ten minutes, write in letter format why you are removing this person from your company.

  1. Play Story-Telling Card Games.

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If your Writer’s Block is contagious and your friends need inspiration as well, then I suggest story-telling card games. These games typically consist of a box of cards that have been illustrated with pictures or words. When laid out on a table, they allow for a narrative to be created. The person who produces the best narrative from the cards wins the game. Some story-telling card games are: The Hollow Woods, Once Upon a Time, Above and Below, and The Machine of Death. This last suggestion is my personal favorite way to shake writer’s block because you also get to relax with friends!

Writer’s block happens to all of us, and with some time and patience anyone can escape it. Hopefully, one of these options cures your Writer’s Block and you can continue your project. Is there a routine I have not mentioned? Please, comment below sharing what you do to escape writer’s block!

 

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5 Books to Keep You Company on Valentine’s Day

Hello Readers! My name is Anne Jonas and I am a new intern at CambridgeEditors. I am an English major at Boston University, with a double minor in French and Women’s Studies. When I am not in the classroom, I enjoy exploring Boston, smashing the patriarchy, and binge-watching French TV shows on Netflix.

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If you are a single lady like me, then you know that Valentine’s Day can make you feel a little isolated or left out. But I’ve got just the fix! I have chosen five books that transform romantic clichés into awe-inspiring narratives. These books are not your typical Nicholas Sparks heartthrobs or your Fifty Shades of Grey heart-racers. Rather, they are books that look at love through different and unconventional perspectives, which made me think about the genre of romance and why we read it in the first place. So, I challenge everyone out there to find company in a book today. Get into some comfy clothes, make yourself a big cup of tea, find a cozy nook, and grab one of the five books below!

  1. Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home

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Fun Home is a graphic memoir written and illustrated by Bechdel, following her relationship to her father from childhood to adulthood. Self-described as a “tragicomic,” the graphic novel addresses the innerworkings of a dysfunctional family with the witty humor of an angsty teenager. The book explores themes of father-daughter love, self-love, and first love. If you like visual aids while reading and a quirky, nuanced sense of humor, I would highly recommend this book.

  1. Ian McEwan’s Atonement

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Ian McEwan’s Atonement follows a tragic love story of mistaken identity in WWII-era England. The book centers around Briony, who, as a young teenager, falsely accuses her sisters love interest of rape, thereby separating the two for life. The novel explores themes of guilt and shame, as well as the “happily-(n)ever-after” trope of postwar fiction. The book has been adapted into a movie featuring Keira Knightly and James McAvoy (*swoon*). For those who love a moving, Titanic-esque tragic love story, this is the perfect book for you.

  1. Alice Walker’s The Color Purple

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The Color Purple is an epistolary novel, containing letters exchanged between Celie, a rape survivor and social pariah, and God. This novel takes a soulful look into the struggles of navigating trauma as a queer woman of color in the early 20th century. It looks at love between female outcasts, and delves into themes of sisterhood, colorism, and feminism. This book is perfect for those looking for a spiritual, yet contemporary reflection on love, gender, and race.

  1. Toni Morrison’s Beloved

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In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Sethe’s love for her daughter, Beloved, is so great that she kills her in order to save her from the wrath of slavery. The novel follows the chaotic relationship between Sethe and Paul D, who are both haunted by the ghost of Beloved and then visited by her doppelgänger. For those who enjoy a good spook, I highly recommend this novel. This book has also been adapted into a film which features Oprah Winfrey as Sethe. Grab this book if you want a challenging, haunting read on the complexity of maternal love.

  1. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre

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Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is a bildungsroman that follows Jane Eyre through her abusive childhood, her education at an all-girls orphanage, and her eventual position as governess to the mysterious Mr. Rochester. The novel explores the social taboo surrounding large age-gaps in relationships, mistresses, and what love is like with a physical disability. If you are a fan of period pieces, this book is a great way to escape into the elusive lives of the 19th century English elite.

If you are writing a novel of your own, or if you’d like to connect with our team of expert writers, check out the CambridgeEditors website. However you spend this holiday, enjoy the best wishes from the team over at CambridgeEditors!

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A Time for Memory

As another birthday passed me by last week, I sifted through the memories surfaced by my friends and family. My mom calls me every year on my birthday and repeats the same story: “Twenty-one years ago today, I was sitting at the pool wondering if I’d be going to the hospital…”

The cycle of another year makes me reflect back on my past: my sixteenth birthday spent sweating in a humid North Carolinian summer camp, my tenth birthday spent jumping into the icy water of Lake Roaming Wood in Pennsylvania, and my twentieth birthday spent looking out at the Manhattan skyline from a Hoboken skyscraper. I love examining memory, the way we recall individual and collective events. Therefore, I thought I would share some books that deal with memory in unique and interesting ways:

  1. The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

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In The Sound of Things Falling, Vasquez captures the lives of Bogotans and gringos during the Pablo Escobar years in the 1960s and 1970s, and the Colombia’s transition into a modern age after his assassination in the 1990s. Vasquez explores memory and nostalgia in its complete form and in a pre-form, “the nostalgia for things that weren’t yet lost” as he describes it. Piecing together a narrative that won’t conform to linear structure, Vasquez keeps readers fascinated on every page.

  1. The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

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The Reason I Jump is a brilliantly touching book written by a then-thirteen-year-old Japanese boy with autism. In it, he answers important questions about people with autism that are never broached, like: why don’t you make eye contact, do you not like being touched, and what are your flashback memories like? In Higashida’s answer to the last question, he writes, “the trouble with scattered memories is that sometimes they replay themselves in my head as if they had only just taken place – and when this happens, the emotions I felt originally all come rushing back to me, like a sudden storm.” A book filled with beautiful illustrations and an intention to connect us all, I highly recommend you read The Reason I Jump.

  1. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

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O’Brien’s famous book about the Vietnam War is often debated over whether it can be considered nonfiction or fiction. Much of the book examines the ideas of truth and memory, and what makes something real. O’Brien discusses the difference between “story-truth” and “happening-truth,” as he calls it, and asserts that fictional stories can tell the emotions of memories better than the actual memory itself. Without a doubt, The Things They Carried deserves a couple reads.

Birthdays, especially milestone birthdays like a twenty-first, are times for reflection and nostalgia. Where did I come from? How much have I grown? I love to look back at books like The Sound of Things Falling, The Reason I Jump, and The Things They Carried during this time because they remind me that memory fascinates us all. Each person approaches it in a different way. Whether it’s nearing your big day or still several months out, I recommend reading these phenomenal books.

-Colleen Risavy, Intern

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A Call to Modernize the Swedish Academy

Swedish Academy

In May, the Swedish Academy, the group responsible for choosing the Nobel Prize in literature, was involved in a scandal that rocked the literary world.

Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of former Academy member Katarina Frostenson, was accused by eighteen women of sexual assault and harassment. Arnault was in charge of a cultural organization called Forum, which received financial support from the Academy. According to reports that are under investigation, Arnault used cultural power gained from the Academy to commit misconduct against aspiring writers.

After the story was released to the public, Sara Danius, The Swedish Academy’s former permanent secretary and first female permanent secretary, was forced to step down from her position, then left the Academy altogether. In the following weeks, eight of the eighteen members, both men and women, left the Academy. As it stands, there will be no Nobel Prize awarded in literature this year.

While this scandal is another sad story of men using their authority to overpower women, it also reveals a need to modernize cultural organizations like the Swedish Academy. The Academy was much respected by the international community, therefore, a lot of work needs to be done before they will be trusted again. Bjorn Wiman, cultural editor at Dagens Nyheter, said, “With this scandal you cannot possibly say that this group of people has any kind of solid judgment.”

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Sara Danius

Some of Danius’s enemies within the Academy claim that the assault allegations are exaggerated and Danius was a weak leader who needed to be forced from the position of permanent secretary. They pointed to the importance of tradition in protecting the image of the Academy. However, others claim that she was ousted because she threatened the male-dominated tradition of the Swedish Academy. The first female permanent secretary introduced initiatives toward modernization that were not well-received by all.

Alexandra Pascalidou, a Greek-Swedish journalist, is a proponent for change in the literary community. She believes that the cancelation of the Nobel Prize this year punishes authors, so she is running her own prize, an inclusive prize. People all around the world are able to vote on the prize’s website for one of 46 candidates. On August 14, the polls will close and a panel of a literature professor, two librarians, and two literary editors will then choose a winner from the four finalists.

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Alexandra Pascalidou

The New Academy, as they call themselves, seeks to be a more accessible space than the Swedish Academy. Instead of a panel of old guard academics, Pascalidou is involving people who interact with literature on many different levels. Although the hope is that the Swedish Academy will take on some of their inclusive measures, Pascalidou is not convinced. “I don’t think they will adopt what we’re doing as these are people who express very elitist views on librarians,” she said. “That’s very sad. Why do they think people in the Academy are the only ones that know about literature?”

Will the New Academy’s winner have a positive impact on the future of literature? Will the Swedish Academy become a more accessible, transparent organization? With the New Academy’s winner set to be announced on October 14, and the future of the Swedish Academy still unknown, we must wait to see how the literary community evolves. I leave with a parting call to action: vote. Go onto the New Academy’s website and involve yourself in the literary world. If the Swedish Academy will not give us room, we will make room.

-Colleen Risavy, Intern

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How The Lost Family’s Jenna Blum Found Her Second Home

Jenna Blum

Jenna Blum

On the night of June 5th, a drizzling June evening, I ran from the T to the shelter of Coolidge Corner Theater. My nose was immediately comforted by the scent of buttery popcorn and my eyes brightened at the sight of vintage movie posters under yellowing lightbulbs.

After finding a seat inside the theater, my eyes gravitated toward a woman sitting off stage. She styled her hair in a big half-ponytail and she wore a glittering copper jumpsuit. A warm smile crept across her face as Christopher Castellani, Artistic Director of Grubstreet, took the stage to introduce her. With a laugh, he told us how this woman talks about the characters in her novels like they’re real. This one’s giving me a hard time today and that one won’t do what I’m asking her to. He told us about her dedication to the writing community. She’s taught fiction and nonfiction workshops at Grubstreet since 1998.

After Chris finished his introduction, the woman stepped onto the stage and gave him a hug. She was Jenna Blum, author of acclaimed books Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers. She is one of Oprah Winfrey’s Thirty Women Writers and she worked for the Steven Spielberg Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, interviewing Holocaust survivors from 1993 through 1997. Jenna was here to kick off her book tour for her new novel The Lost Family, which was published on June 5, 2018 by Harper Collins.

Jenna Book

She surprised us by saying, “I hate book readings that go on for super long, so I usually only read for ten to fifteen minutes.” I wondered what she would do for the rest of the event if she only planned to read for ten minutes, but my question was answered by spending most of the evening talking with Jenna, and asking her questions about her characters, her process, and her life as the wind and rain whipped around the Coolidge Corner Theater.

Jenna talked about the importance of building a writing community for yourself. She is still good friends with many of her Grubstreet students–who attended the event–and always has people she can turn to for edits on new chapters of her books. Jenna told us she has “accountabilibuddies,” a group of people she checks in with each day to name a writing goal they have for the day and follow up to see if it was accomplished. Though I was sincerely intrigued by Jenna’s reading of The Lost Family and look forward to buying my own copy, I was most floored by Jenna opening herself up to a room of rain-soaked strangers.

Jenna Blum showed herself to be a writer fully committed to the literary community. She has been to over 850 book clubs in Boston alone. She enjoys talking to readers, hearing our thoughts and answering our questions. As a writer and reader myself, I was honored to share the space with her.

-Colleen Risavy, Intern

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Salutations!

Salutations!

I honestly don’t know why that word isn’t used more in everyday language. It’s as much fun to say as it is to write! When I meet people, I abbreviate my greeting to a plain, “hey” or “hello,” which is probably more normal sounding than “salutations.” That said, I think “salutations” describes my personality in one phrase—strange but well-meaning.

I’m Parisa Syed, one of the two new summer 2018 interns for CambridgeEditors. I’m so happy to be here and write exciting literary things for you all! I have all sorts of ideas lined up for the blog, ranging from book recommendations, both genre-based and feelings based, and literary news regarding audio books, ebooks, print books, publishers, etc.

I was born in Detroit, Michigan, but my parents moved to sunny (and excessively hot) Florida when I was two years old. Suffice to say that I enjoy the cold in Boston more than I enjoy the three random days of ninety-degree weather we’ve been having.

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Juno Beach boardwalk at sunset

This fall, I’ll be starting my last year at Emerson College for my MA in Publishing and Writing. I’m appalled yet excited that time has flown by so quickly. I did my undergrad at Goucher College in Maryland, and I majored in Sociology because I couldn’t do science, but I still wanted to be a doctor (look how that turned out). I took a fiction writing course during my last semester of senior year and discovered I liked to edit pieces more than I liked to write them, though I still write here and there. And then I started the journey of finding internships and jobs to gain experience for this complicated and intense world called publishing.

When I’m not interning, I love to re-read the Captive Prince trilogy and the All for the Game trilogy instead of starting the thirty-five books I haven’t read yet, read countless fanfiction instead of starting the thirty-five books I haven’t read yet, re-watch my favorite show, Merlin, on Netflix instead of the ten shows on my list, walk around this beautiful city, and look up adoption centers to cry at the fact that I want a cat or dog but can’t have one just yet. I love reading fiction novels, gay romance novels, and fanfiction because I like happy endings and reading about the multiple ways people can fall in love with each other.

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A cute cat that I want to take home

Thank you for reading this introduction about my weird self. Hopefully I can convince you I’m actually not this strange and funnier than I seem in the following months. For now, I hope you enjoy this fickle weather.

 

Signing off,

Parisa Syed, Intern

CambridgeEditors

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When Your Dad Loves Books, and You Love Him

My dad writes a blog called Crap Dads Do and I’ve been his editor for years, reading over potential posts and kindly asking him to keep my embarrassing moments out. In fact, his first ever blog post was about the time the family gifted him a Father’s Day cat sixteen years ago when he’d not asked for one. We’ve bonded over the hilarious stories of David Sedaris. One previous Father’s Day gift of mine, when he first started transforming memories into a book, was The Art of the Memoir by Mary Karr. We had always respected each other’s work and I wanted to give him the best advice for memoir writing I knew.

Dad and Colleen

Dad and Jack

There are always the classic gifts to get a dad on this day: a tie, a coffee mug, or grilling equipment. But I would suggest leaning a little literary this year. Books have the power to open up a conversation between parents and children and really connect them. Books teach you what your parents believe in, what makes them laugh, and what their passions are. And it does the same for them. So, if you are still wondering what to get the father figure in your life this June 17th, here are some ideas:

  1. For younger fathers, Jabari Jumps, written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall, and published by Candlewick Press on May 9, 2017. Tied for second place for children’s book at the 2018 New England Book Show, Jabari Jumps tells the story of a father’s ability to inspire courage in his children.

Jabari

  1. For food loving dads, Captain Madbeard’s Cookbook written by Doug McLean, published by Lulu Publishing on September 11, 2017. If you want to make memories with your dad over some pirate-themed meals, check out this book.

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  1. For mentoring young men, From Fatherless to Fatherhood written by Omar Epps, and published by Lulu Publishing on May 4, 2018. In this book, Epps describes his journey from growing up in Brooklyn without his biological father to becoming a world famous actor and a father himself.

Omar Epps

Whether you get your dad one of these, or another book, remember to talk about it with him afterwards. What was your favorite part? What about his? What surprised him most about what he read? Through the long-lasting gift of literature, we are able to further cement the love between parents and children.  Remember to spend time with your fathers. Have dinner together, go to a movie, or become their blog editors if that works for you. The written word has always connected me and my father. Find out what connects you to yours. Whatever it is, give thanks for the father figures in your life this year.

Colleen Risavy, Intern

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