Category Archives: Love and Life

Techniques For The Writer

Hello All,

This will be my last post on Maggie Thrash, hopefully, the constant posting about her page will have made one of you go and check it out (HERE). So I think I’ve come up with a list to help others who want to dabble in creative nonfiction from what I have seen from Maggie’s page.

1. Tell a Memorable Story

Stories, in general, have always had humans fascinated. I think stories are fundamental in our lives. A TV show is merely a story. Gossip to co-workers is merely a story. Telling a loved one how your day was is merely a story.

If you include things like examples, experiences, and comparisons then your story will be stronger and more relatable. Nonfiction is about relating, and Maggie does this.

2. Bait Your Audience

A great story grabs your attention right at the beginning and doesn’t let go until the end. Maggie uses certain strategies to do this. Honor Girl is a graphic memoir about her experience in summer camp. Pictures always get attention, and beginning with something that’s personal doesn’t hurt.

Or starting with an interesting or funny thought works. Maggie’s videos all start with something interesting like, “7th “Gay” Heaven.” Or her page catching my attention with the confessions. She makes you want to read further, or look further.

3. Use Emotional Language

More imagery, more emotion, and more personality. Words like “confession” or “surge” (which are both on Maggie’s page) are emotionally charged words that hit an audience strongly. Evoke vital emotions, and emotion will keep the reader’s eyes glued to every single word of yours. Make them feel your words.

4. Say it Simply

Short sentences and easily understandable vocabulary where your ideas can be broken down into detail. Shorter paragraphs with more white space, which is why the idea of a graphic memoir works.  I mean, you can impress your readers with the story rather than with the wording.

5. Surprise Your Reader

I find that I have a harder time reading nonfiction because it frequently reads predictably. But a memoir that is in graphic form is not predictable.  Maggie’s second novel, We Know It Was You, is about a suicide/murder. It’s a mystery.  As writers, we should be adding unexpected twists when we can. We should aim for keeping things interesting and fun for our readers. Maggie does this with her pure disregard for outside opinion.

Actually, I think these techniques work for fiction as well. It’s all about telling a story. What do you guys think?

“Nonfiction is never going to die.” -Tom Wolfe

XO,

-B

Is My Story Worth Sharing?

Readers,

I can’t remember the las time I posted so much! You know this assignment thing might be good for me. Also, discovering the handy tool that allows me to schedule posts has been a lifesaver. I’m not sure I would have made that discovery without posting on here so often due to the Maggie Thrash assignment.

I have gone through everything on Maggie’s page and since she doesn’t do the normal blog with new posts every so often, I am running out of content. She does do a newsletter instead but the page doesn’t tell me how frequently that comes.  Bummer.  I have been going back to her books page a lot though. Since I wanna be a published author and she is. I mean, even if it’s nonfiction content, it’s still YA. It makes me wonder if I have a story from my life that’s worth sharing.

Honor Girl is Maggie’s debut novel and it’s also a graphic memoir. All true, based on her life at fifteen, in photo form.  I like how that aspect is unique. I don’t see a lot of graphic memoir books around. Anyways, I went to Amazon (here) to check it out so that I could look inside the novel at a few of the pages and it’s like her comics page. Amazon’s site said there was only seventeen left in stock so it must be selling like hot cakes.  At four and a half stars, I can imagine. I guess she tells one hell of a nonfiction YA story. I might just have to order it.

“But with nonfiction, the task is very straightforward: Do the research, tell the story.”

-Laura Hillenbrand

XO,

-B

Podcasts Are Like Mondays

Morning Monday-ers,

Topic for today’s post: Podcasts. Opinions? Not for me. Again, the lack of captions and ability to see someone’s lips throw me off, however, Maggie does have a podcast page. I admit it. I couldn’t listen to them so I have no idea how great they are personally. BUT she does have a Twitter page for her podcast show, on top of her Twitter page for herself. 268 followers for her podcast “Creek Daze” is still pretty impressive.

As a side note, she has 891 followers on her personal Twitter, which I consider to be great. Her last post being a photo of a cat on fire wearing a shirt, and with a tiny man inside the pocket. The words on the photo say, “In the Pocket of The Animal on Fire… Whaddaya Gonna Do?!” Which is only made funnier by the photo’s caption that says, “When u clean yr room and unearth the greatest book you never wrote.” Check it out here.

Could this be another novel idea in the making?

“Ironically, in today’s marketplace successful nonfiction has to be unbelievable, while successful fiction must be believable.” -Jerry B. Jenkins

XO,

-B

Not a Fan of Pizza and Videos. Is That Weird?

Bloggers and Booklovers Alike,

I’m not a fan of videos. Hearing and videos just don’t mix so I tend to stray away from them. It’s nothing personal. Well, Miss Maggie Thrash has a video section on her site, and to do this assignment justice I feel I must view it.

I can put the entire page, consisting of fifteen videos, into one word: weird.  Which is a good thing since her target audience is young adults who all feel like they are the weird one out (like the odd man out, get it? Ha ha). Anyways, they have attractive titles like “Werewolves of London,” or “SENSUAL WORLD feat. Kate Bush,” or “Pizza Is Gay.” All of which feature Maggie Thrash herself dancing awkwardly to some oldies music, and holding things like pizza and sparklers. Most teens love pizza and sparklers, am I right?

It is a breath of fresh air to be able to see someone so completely self-aware that they have no care in the world of other people’s opinions of them. Kudos for that.

“Some people like you, some people don’t. In the end, you just have to be yourself.” -Andres Iniesta

XO,

-B

Eye-Catching Names and Social Platforms

Readers!

I checked out other social platforms of Maggie Thrash and I’m a tad surprised. A decent amount of followers on Instagram (1,519) are all watching as she posts selfies with her cat. In fact, her last post is of her wearing a Jonas Brothers t-shirt surrounded by a pink glitter background (here). It’s no wonder she is hitting the YA genre hard. Her mini bio states she is “the bad boy of YA lit” and a “Twihard lesbian.”  Her site lonercomics.com is practically a collection of doodles. Her last a story about her gas station PDA and strawberry milk.

I’m struck. My last Instagram post is a hedgehog surrounded by a pink background. I think YA lit is badass and I plan on writing for the genre. While I am not a lesbian, I do like Twilight. I also have a collection of doodle in my writing notebooks to go along with my thoughts. I’m typing this while drinking chocolate milk.

Alright, alright. It’s not directly related, but it is something worth mentioning.

Speaking of worth mentioning, I viewed more of the authors in the list. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Alison Bechdel both do more of a blog like mine Pots every so often in a scroll down fashion, and not nine sections to go through to get to the good stuff.  Kinda wish Maggie Thrash had more of this style. Or at least a page notched out for it. I want to know her thoughts about things. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Alison Bechdel could be cool. I mean their handle names are interesting.

Alison Bechdel- http://dykestowatchoutfor.com/blog

Ta-Nehisi Coates- http://absurdbeats.net

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” -Mark Twain

 

XO,

-B

 

 

DIY Concrete Countertops

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After Photo

Howdy Readers,

Josh and I have been in the process of updating our house so that we can sell it all nice and pretty when the time comes. The list of projects seems to get longer with each look, however, we did finally finish the “roommate” bathroom upstairs (note: its a bathroom that only really gets use when we have roommates which at this time we do). Anyways, after all the painting and laying tile we wanted to do something to make the vanity look updated as well without having to break the bank.

As an avid Pinterest-er I found several DIY sites that talked about concrete countertops as an overlay for the counter that was already there, and bonus they weren’t expensive! If you have laminate or formica counters and want something to get you by for a couple years until you can splurge on stone, this is a really great option. The best part is it costs about $20 and it’s incredibly easy to tackle as a solo project!

As there are several concrete overlay tutorials floating around the web. I used searched on Pinterest to find the best ones (this one from  Designer Trapped in a Lawyer’s body was my favorite, she also has an updated post for 18 months later). You might want to look around yourself and find a tutorial that works with your existing countertops, though the concept is pretty much the same across the board.

MATERIALS NEEDED FOR DIY VANITY WITH CONCRETE OVERLAY:

For the Ardex Feather Finish you can look on the Ardex website for local distributors, but it was easier for me to run into my local Home Depot and get Henry’s Feather Finish. It’s going to give the same results but it just depends if you want to wait on ships or whatnot. A 10-pound bag cost me only $15 and I needed about half a bag for my laundry room. So pretty cheap, right?

I used a small bucket to mix Henry’s finish and in small amounts! This stuff drys pretty quickly and if you don’t give yourself some time to spread the concrete on the countertop it will harden on you.

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Here you can see the old countertops (ek!) and the process starting. I sanded the counter first to get a rougher texture for the finish to have something to hold onto. In this case i used our electric sander for the wide counter spaces then switched to sand paper for the back edges and around the sink.

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Then we taped off the walls and the sink since those didn’t need the concrete finish. We used painters tape for this. We were also painting the bottom counter of this vanity at the same time.

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Then it was time to wipe it all down and lay the first coat. The feather finish says to use a 1 part water to 2 parts dry cement ratio when mixing smaller amounts, but I suggest only doing 1 cup water and 2 cups of dry cement per batch so that you can spread it all before it dries (any more and it tends to harden before you can use it). I also use hot water to keep the mixture for longer and found that it helped. I used a small and a wide putty knife as well as a large drywall trowel. It was nice to have a mixture of tools to work with since particular ones came in handy at different points in the job. Use the tools to spread a thin layer of concrete over the top of your countertop. It does kind of feel like you are icing a cake, but it also reminded me of using spackle to patch a hole in a wall-you use the same type of motion. Don’t worry about getting the whole surface covered on your first go, if you have a few areas that look thin, you’ll cover them with the second coat. You can see how thin my coat is in the photo.

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My second coat dried looking much thicker and then is the time I pulled out the sander and sand paper. The first coat wasn’t thick enough for me to sand, however, the second had some trowel marks and such.

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The back and bottom edges were the hardest part. Though, after i realized it was much like clay and I could mold it with my fingers I just started using them to spread the finish. Then sanded the excess off when it dried. It came off easily, and I would recommend a open window or something for when you’re sanding because it gets pretty dusty in there.  We wiped the counter with a damp sponge before each reciting of the finish.

Here’s a photo just after my third coat. It really started to even out and look like a countertop. We used a wet sponge after roughly 15 minutes after we laid the finish and molded it a little more to make it smooth and take of any lines that were left. It really made the difference and I would tell you to make sure to do this before letting it completely dry to get the smooth surface look you want.

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We removed the tape after the third coat and did some touch ups around the sink where the finish didn’t get to, and then a final fourth coat to make everything even. While we waited for this to dry we epoxied the sink for a bright finish on it and then waited for all of it to dry. We only waited 24 hours then  sanded it to how we liked. When you are happy with the coverage, you will want to do a final sanding of the entire vanity surface.  I did it by hand to ensure that I don’t remove too much of the concrete, particularly on the edges and corners.  But again, if you have significant imperfections, you may need to break out the electric sander. We left some spots rougher to keep the concrete look but you can sand it as smooth as you’d like. Then we wiped down the counter with a damp sponge to lay the sealer.

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The last step is to apply a sealer.  I recommend using a water based acrylic concrete sealer in satin finish {this is the exact sealer we used: Quikrete 873002 Concrete Cure And Seal Satin Finish}.  It gives your concrete a nice, smooth finish with a slight sheen.  It also darkens the concrete up a bit, which I like.  When you apply the sealer, it will have a milky appearance.  Don’t worry, it dries clear.  Follow the directions carefully–do not apply the sealer too thick and/or leave puddles.  Also be sure to smooth out any air bubbles.  I applied two coats. I showed a photo here which looks like bubbles but it is smooth. This shows you what it will look like before it’s dried.

On the actual counter bottom and doors we uses poly instead of the concrete sealer.

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Not bubbles but this may appear. They will dry flat and will not show.

We waited over night to paint on the second coat of sealer and then gave it three days (this was actually for the epoxy to dry but we figured we could wait for the counter too).

We then went back in and added the new faucet and doors to he counter and here is the final product.

The surface is completely smooth  with no bubbles or nicks or anything, and stands up to water. I took the photo below just to show you guys how the water just sits on the countertop and wipes off easily.

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The sealer did darken the feather finish a bit but I like it better this way. It might be a rather physically demanding project but it is totally worth it. I am impressed who nice it turned out and will be using this on the rest of my bathroom counters!  Any one think they’ll be trying it  anytime soon?

Note: Some of the tutorials do use this DIY project on kitchen counters so it might be worth trying in your kitchen. Here are a few more tutorials that I compared information from before I started.  A Beautiful Mess and A Little Green Notebook both have concrete countertops for the kitchen and laundry room.

“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” -Jane Austen

XO,

-Brandy

Declutter Your Writing

Hello Darlings!

Beyond sorry for my last post being in July. I lost track of time during school, and when I found it six months had gone by. But I have a lovely post for you all – how to declutter your writing.

 

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photo credit- Google

First drafts should be about just getting your thoughts and words onto a page without worrying about what you’re actually saying. Since finishing my first draft of a YA novel I’ve been working on, I have gone back and realize how many extra words I added.

One mark of a good writer is the ability to communicate more to the reader using less. Editors like lean prose that’s effective and clear without wasting words. Often, our writing becomes cluttered without us realizing it. Words that seem innocent enough can actually detract from what you’re trying to say and add unneeded “fluff.” So how can you create tight, lean prose? Here are some examples of words you can cut from your writing!

NOTE: While these words can often clutter your writing, that’s not always the case. Exceptions can always be made, and it’s up to you to use your judgement to decide when a word can stay and when it needs to go.

1.Of the

“Of the” is almost always unnecessary and can be simplified.

Examples:

The owner of the restaurant.

The restaurant owner.

The wheels of the skateboard.

The skateboard’s wheels.

One of the nails came loose.

A nail came loose.

2. That

This one seems innocent enough, but again it can almost always be cut without any damage. If you have “that” in a sentence remove it, and if what’s left still makes sense then it’s unnecessary.

He said that he was coming.

He said he was coming.

Our teacher promised that there wouldn’t be any homework.

Our teacher promised there wouldn’t be any homework.

3. Adverbs

Most adverbs are either redundant or superfluous.

For example:

“I have to go,” she whispered quietly.

Whispering implies being quiet, so “quietly” is redundant and can be cut.

He moved quickly across the lawn.

If we choose a strong verb the adverb becomes unnecessary and the writing becomes tighter and punchier:

He dashed across the lawn.

4. Almost/slightly/somewhat

Words like almost, slightly, somewhat, etc. aim to de-emphasize. This can weaken your writing. You can be as clear and direct as possible. Don’t waver in-between.

The weather was somewhat hot.

The weather was balmy.

He backed up slightly.

He took a step back.

Her hair was almost soaked.

Her hair was wet.

5. Really/very/quite

These words aim to emphasize, but if we choose our words carefully to begin with, they become unnecessary.

He ran really fast across the parking lot.

He bolted across the parking lot.

They had a very good time.

They had an excellent time.

The mouse was quite large.

The mouse was massive.

6. Adjectives

While not all adjectives are bad, you can usually eliminate or combine them without losing meaning. Watch out for piling on too many adjectives, and try to choose strong nouns that could replace them.

The small, fluffy, white kitten

The white kitten (small and fluffy is implied with kittens)

The large spotted dog

The dalmatian

7. Things/Stuff

Vague words like things, stuff, something, etc. should be avoided whenever possible because they do little to help the reader. Be specific to communicate clearly and give the reader a vivid picture!

She knew they needed to talk about things.

She knew they needed to talk about John cheating with Shelly.

The table was littered with random art stuff.

The table was littered with pens, charcoal, paper wads, and brushes whose bristles were gummy with dried paint.

8. Most dialogue tags

Sometimes we need dialogue tags (said, yelled, whispered, etc.) to let us know who’s speaking. But often we can use character actions to communicate the same information in place of dialogue tags, or drop both altogether. For example:

Derek moved his sweet potatoes around his plate. “I’m not hungry.”

His mother sighed. “Stop being picky.”

“I’m not picky. Potatoes shouldn’t be orange.”

“It’s good for you.”

“I don’t trust orange food.” He shoved his plate away.

There wasn’t a single dialogue tag in that conversation but you probably didn’t have any trouble following who was saying what. When you do find yourself in need of a dialogue tag, it’s usually best to use said over words like intoned, stated, etc.

9. Thought/realized/wondered

Just like with dialogue tags, we can communicate a character’s thoughts without words like realized, wondered, pondered, etc.

10. Then

This is a sneaky clutter word that can often be cut from your writing without changing its meaning.

Sara called a cab and then grabbed her coat.

Sara called a cab and grabbed her coat.

 

If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.

-Beverly Cleary

Do you struggle with any of these clutter words? Are there any other words you avoid? Let me know in the comments below!

-Brandy