Spring Worlds I’d Like to Visit

Happy spring to everyone in the northern hemisphere! I’m beyond relieved to see it finally arrive as far as the calendar goes. Here’s hoping Ontario will soon see lots of warm weather and the first little green shoots popping out of the soil as well.

In the last couple of years, I’ve written about the winter and summer worlds I’d like to visit, so today I’ll be talking about the spring worlds I’d like to see.

Yes, I’ll be writing another instalment in this series in the autumn of 2019, so do keep an eye out for it later on this year.

It turns out that there are a lot of books out there set during winter and summer, but there aren’t so many of them that are set during this time of the year. Putting together this list was a little tricky! If you have anything to add to it, do speak up. All of the authors I could think of were white, and many of them were British. It would be nice to add other voices to this list.

When I was growing up, many of my elementary, middle, and high school English teachers did poetry units in the spring. I don’t know why this pattern happened. It might have been done unintentionally, or maybe teachers are taught to give their students slightly easier* assignments for a while as the end of the school year grows closer. At any rate, I’ve come to associate this time of the year with poetry because of those experiences.

*Or at least I found them easier. I enjoy the subjective nature of interpreting poetry.

From “Easter 1916“, the title poem in Easter 1916 and Other Poems by W.B. Yeats

From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;

 

Spring is one of the two seasons of the year when the weather swings wildly between temperature extremes for those of us who live in certain climates. Here in Ontario, you could have a heavy snowstorm one day and warm, sunny 20 C (68 Fahrenheit for you Americans) weather the next.
This poem reminded me of those fluctuations, and it made me want to visit this setting for a few minutes despite the dangers of the World War I era.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is one of those childhood classics that I keep referencing over and over again in various posts.

If you’ve never read it, it’s about a young girl who moved from India to England to live with a relative after her parents died. The estate her relative lived in had once been grand but were now a bit neglected. She was placed in her new home during the cold part of the year, so it wasn’t until the spring that she realized there was a secret garden on the property that had been terribly neglected.

There were so many interesting lines in this book about tending gardens and what happens to plants when no one has looked after them for a long time. Obviously, there were metaphors in there about taking care of the people around you, too, but seeing the transformation of that garden from a lonely, weedy place to what it became later on makes me smile every time I reread those passages.

Winter never lasts forever, whether we’re talking about the actual season or as a metaphor for life difficulties. I love the hopeful message there, and I’d sure like to see the Secret Garden from this tale for myself.

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that picture books are only – or even mostly –  for small children. There are plenty of picture books out there that are honestly even more meaningful for adult readers.

The illustrations in this book are of a farm in springtime. The grass is green, tall, and strong. Wild flowers have sprouted up everywhere. The weather is beautifully mild. Since we’re talking about a fictional fantasy world here, there is no mud or spring allergies like there might be in our world.

Even without the added appeal of seeing these rabbits in action, reading about what unconditional love looks like makes me eager to visit this world. It would be such a pleasant place to spend an afternoon.

From “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” a poem from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
The speaker in this poem has lost someone he loved very much. Spring gives him hope that they’ll be reunited again somehow someday. I appreciate the hope he finds in the natural cycle of the seasons and the way that each new spring reminds him of both his love and his grief.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco

Confession: I’ve cried every single time I’ve reread this story.

It contains references to a world that many people have forgotten thanks to the miracle of vaccines. This was a place where epidemics ripped through communities and many families lost at least one child because of these horrific diseases.

After the main character became gravely ill, his family was advised to burn all of his toys in an attempt to stop the spread of those germs to other vulnerable people. Even his beloved stuffed rabbit was supposed to be destroyed.

The boy’s illness appeared to happen in winter or possibly early spring based on how the story was written. I liked seeing the transition he and his family went through from the long, dark days of his illness to what happened after spring arrived and he began feeling like his old self again. The changing of the weather was a beautiful metaphor for all of the other wonderful things that were happening in their lives.

Of course I wouldn’t actually want to be sick like this kid was, but it would be so interesting to see the velveteen rabbit in person and maybe even tell these characters about all of the medical marvels to come that someday were going to prevent future families from going through this same experience.

What books do you associate with spring?

 

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Characters I’d Like to Meet

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

All of the characters I’ll be talking about this week are from TV shows. I’m starting with the oldest show and ending with the most current one. Let’s see if any of you were or are also fans of them!

Lucy Lawless as Xena

My family didn’t have cable – or sometimes even a TV at all – when I was a young kid. As soon as that rule was gradually relaxed in the mid-1990s, I discovered Xena: Warrior Princess and fell in love with her campy plots and amusing takes on Greek mythology. It sure would be fun to hang out with her for a while and see what she thought of twenty-first century life.

Gillian Anderson as Dr. Dana Scully

Yes, The X-Files technically started a few years before Xena did, but I didn’t become interested in the adventures of Scully and Mulder until I was in college.

What I liked the most about Scully was her insistence that everything she and her partner investigated must have a rational explanation. As someone who was and is sometimes prone to worrying and leaping to conclusions, I always appreciated the reminder to stick to the facts until I know for sure what is going on.

COMMUNITY — “Intro to Statistics” Episode 106 — Pictured: (l-r) Donald Glover as Troy, Danny Pudi as Abed — NBC Photo: Chris Haston

Community is the funniest comedy I’ve ever watched. Troy and Abed were two characters in it who, among other hijinks, hosted a pretend morning show together for the sheer joy of using their imaginations.

Their personalities complemented each other beautifully. No matter what problems they faced – whether real or imaginary – they always found a funny way to deal with them. I’d be a guest on their pretend morning show in a heartbeat!

 

Simu Liu as Jung Kim

Kim’s Convenience is a hilarious comedy that’s set right here in Toronto and is still releasing new seasons. It follows the four members of the Kim family as the younger generation enters the workforce and their parents continue to adjust to the many cultural differences between Canada and Korea.

Jung, the oldest child and only son, dropped out of high school and got into some trouble as a teenager much to the chagrin of his parents. Now that he’s an adult, he’s working at a car rental shop and trying to piece his life back together. I love seeing the relationship between him and his family evolve in this show. He seems like he’d be a very interesting guy to meet, especially since the show writers have yet to go into a lot of details about what happened to him when he was a teenager.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question, and the image below is the list of upcoming prompts for this blog hop.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Spring 2019 TBR

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Most of the new books I read come from the local library, so what I’m planning to read next at any given point all depends on  how long the wait lists are for titles and how close I am to the top of the lists for the really popular ones.

I hope to read all of these books eventually. Whether that happens this spring or later in the year is anyone’s guess at this point!

1. The Good Neighbor: The Life and Works of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King

My family didn’t watch a lot of TV when I was a kid, but Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was always on the short list of approved shows. I’ve been waiting forever to read this biography of him. Hopefully, it will turn up soon.

2. Not One of Us by Neil Clark

All I know is that this is an anthology of stories about aliens and first encounters between us and them. That alone is enough to pique my interest!

3. Ask: Building Consent Culture by Kitty Stryker

I love hugging and cuddling with friends and relatives so much that sometimes I wonder if I were a Labrador Retriever in a previous lifetime. Ha!  Not everyone is a hugger like me, so I always get permission first before touching folks. I’ll usually wait until I get to know someone well before platonically snuggling up to them just to make sure they’re really okay with that sort of affection. This book is about why consent is so important and how we can build a world where people feel free to say no or yes to all sorts of experiences. I can’t wait to read it.

4. A Thousand Mornings: Poems by Mary Oliver

Sadly, Ms. Oliver died earlier this year. I’ve slowly been reading her poems ever since then. She had such a simple and accessible way of describing the world that her poems are often what I recommend to people who haven’t had any good experiences with this genre so far. What a wonderful writer she was.

5. Slayer by Kiersten White

Some of you Top Ten Tuesday bloggers have given this book rave reviews. You’re only making me more excited to read it! I might have to go rewatch all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer again while I’m waiting for the library to tell me that my copy of it is available now.

6. Shame: Free Yourself, Find Joy, and Build True Self-Esteem by Joseph Burgo

This spring I want to build my self-esteem and confidence by, among other things, taking risks and trying new things. I’m thinking this book might help, too. Have any of you read it?

7. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Yes, I know I’ve mentioned this book in previous Top Ten Tuesday posts. No exaggeration, there are almost 200 other people waiting ahead of me before I’ll get a chance to borrow it from the library. In the meantime, I’ll remain patient and hope the Toronto Pubilc Library orders more copies of it soon. It’s awesome that Angie Thomas is getting so much love from her fans, though! She deserves every ounce of it.

8. Little Dancer Aged Fourteen: The Truth Behind Degas’ Masterpiece by Camille Laurens

As those of you who have followed this blog for a while already know, I love history and art. The thought of combining those two interests together into an exploration of the life of the real-life model for a famous painting fills my heart with joy. I can’t wait to find out who this little dancer was and what her life was like.

9. Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets and Honeybees, The Natural History of Where We Live by Robb Dunn.

I’m both fascinated by the number of species that share living spaces with humans and a little grossed out by it.

10. My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer

I feel like I might have blogged about this anthology before. It’s something I’ve been waiting a very long time to read, and I’m finally almost at the top of the library wait list for it. Is it time to start getting excited yet?

What are all of you looking forward to reading this spring? Were there any similarities between our lists this week?

Ghosts of Fitness Past: Things That Have Thrown Me Off Course and How I Dealt With Them

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the reasons people give for not being interested in work out. It wasn’t that many years ago that I was one of them!

Here are a few things that used to be barriers for me when it came to getting healthier and stronger.

Feeling Disconnected from Fitness Culture

How I Dealt With It: I stopped trying to connect with it.

I’m tentatively hoping to write a couple of posts about my impressions of fitness culture in general later on this spring, but for now I’ll say that this is a complicated topic that I have a lot of thoughts about. There is absolutely nothing wrong with structuring your life around becoming as fit as possible…but that sort of strict attention to detail doesn’t work for me personally.

Yes, I eat a healthy diet and have found several forms of exercise that I love. These are interests I deeply enjoy discussing with people who share them. There are so many different workout routines and diets out there that I always enjoy discovering what has and hasn’t worked for other people.

With that being said, I do not want to filter every morsel of food I eat or every other decision I make through this lens. This technique seems to  work beautifully for some fitness enthusiasts, but I’m the sort of person who needs to have those occasional breaks – and I’m not only talking about food here – in order to stay interested in following my diet and exercise plan the rest of the time.

Hating Exercise

How I Dealt With It: I drilled down to what it was exactly about working out that made me dread the thought of it and chose alternative forms of exercise.

To make a long story short, it turns out that competition is my kryptonite, I do not enjoy running at all, and I’ve never met a team sport that I found enjoyable.

Kudos to those of you who like them. They’re simply not stuff that appeals to me personally.

Since at least one of those three things were present in the vast majority of the workouts I did in gym class, it took a long time for me to tease them away from my thoughts on exercising in general.

Once I realized that I enjoy dancing, lifting weights, and brisk walking, it became a lot easier to fit those things into my regular routine. I’m always open to trying other forms of exercise, too, now that I know that my dislike of this activity isn’t universal.

Not Wanting to Start

How I Dealt With It: I agreed to do some sort of physical movement for five minutes before re-evaluating how I’m feeling that day.

This isn’t a mind trick, either.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, there have been times when I stopped after five minutes of exercise and decided to take the rest of that day off even if I wasn’t injured, sick, or in pain.

By skipping that one session every once in a great while, I maintain the motivation to continue working out the other 99% of the time. This seems like a fantastic trade-off to me.

Perfectionism is a trap.

Five minutes of exercise is better than zero minutes.

Not only that, but I’ve found that the hardest part of any workout is actually getting it started. If you can convince yourself to start the routine, it often feels much easier to finish it than to stop partway through.

Feeling Frustrated with My Progress

How I Dealt With It: I set goals and made observations about things that had nothing to do with the numbers on a scale, measuring tape, or body fat percentage.

This isn’t to say those numbers are unhelpful, but they’re far from the whole picture when you’re trying to figure out if your fitness program accomplishing its goals.

One of the first changes I noticed when I began exercising regularly again about five years ago was how much more energy I had.

Suddenly, I was sleeping better and not feeling so drowsy in the afternoon.

That wasn’t something I’d anticipated at all when I first began working out, so taking note of it was a sign that I was moving in the right direction.

A reduction in the amount of anxiety I was feeling was the next helpful sign. This happened weeks before the numbers on the scale nudged down enough for me to realize it wasn’t a fluke and I was slowly losing weight.

What are your ghosts of fitness past?

Picking Character Names Is Trickier Than It Looks

The sci-fi novel I’m currently working on is coming along slowly but steadily. I’m planning to write a full update on those goals later on this spring, but for now I wanted to talk about picking character names.

I find it fairly easy to describe little things like what characters eat for dinner or how they’d react to a beautiful sunset if such a scene were somehow relevant to the storyline.

Picking names for them, though, is tough.

I can’t tell you all how many hours I’ve spent combing through sites that suggest names for human babies, pets, and/or Dungeons and Dragons characters in order to get as many different possibilities as I can. Google is probably thoroughly confused about what on Earth is going on in my household by now!

Names have all sorts of associations with them in general, from the naming fashions of certain decades or centuries to personal experiences a writer or reader may have had with someone who had a specific name.

Naming Trends

If I read a blurb about contemporary characters with vintage names that fell out of fashion a century ago, I’d generally expect their story to be set in an era when those names were more common or for the plot to give hints about why these characters were given such old-fashioned names.

A few years ago, I noticed a surge in young adult novels that gave their protagonists names that are very rare for contemporary teenagers. The plots themselves were well done, but I found myself getting so caught off-guard by teenagers who had names that I’d previously only seen on gravestones or room tags in nursing homes.

With that being said, I have an older relative who was given an old-fashioned name they didn’t like at all when they were young. Skip ahead a few generations, and that name became wildly popular once again. So the fashionability of a name definitely can change.

Personal Experiences

Talking about naming trends doesn’t even begin to take account for all of the positive and negative associations we’ve all formed based on our experiences with people who had or who have certain names. (No, I don’t have any strong opinions about the name Wilbur. I simply liked this stock photo).

When I was a freshman in high school, my district hired a new music teacher whose only previous experience with someone called Lydia had not been a positive one. She didn’t go into detail, but she eventually mentioned something about her opinion of this name improving quite a bit based on her good experiences with me as a student.

There are a handful of names I’ve formed unpleasant relationships with due to past experiences I’ve had with people who had them. I’ve steered away from using them in any of my stories, and I think that trend is going to continue for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, I’ve met some people who are so lovely that I’m eager to use their names in stories when possible. I still don’t know what the etiquette of this is, but I’ve found myself asking a person or two for permission before using their names even though the characters I’m creating otherwise have little or nothing in common with them.

But Does It Fit the Character?

Even after all of this research, you still have to figure out if a specific name actually fits the character it was intended for.

One of the wonderful things about creating characters is how unpredictable they can be. I’ve had some characters who lean into their names right away and others who don’t quite fit the first half-dozen names I test out on them.

If you’re not a writer, know that these kinds of experiences are common. Just because a writer comes up with a character doesn’t mean that we have control over how that character behaves!

A few times a week I see updates from fellow writers who were surprised by what their creations do. It’s quite common and can be pretty funny in retrospect if you have a good sense of humour about it.

If you’ve ever had to name a character, what have your experiences been?

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Standalone Books That Need a Sequel

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl Last year, I wrote a (non-Top-Ten-Tuesday) post about books that need prequels. Today, I’ll be talking about some standalone books that need sequels. This list is shorter than usual because of how many authors and publishers are eager to publish sequels to stories that do well. There simply aren’t… Read More

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favourite Hobby and Why

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.  I talk about my love of reading and writing all of the time this blog, so I’m going to branch out and talk about some of the other stuff in this world that makes me happy. Oh, and I’m bending the rules and talking about two different topics because… Read More