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Tamora Pierce is the author that has been on my bookshelf the longest. It was her book Wolf-Speaker, the second in her The Immortals quartet, that made me want to pick up books in the first place. While on one of my latest ventures to my local Barnes and Noble, I realized that she had published a new book called Tempests and Slaughter just this past February.
I honestly hadn’t realized she was still writing.
Wild Magic, the first of The Immortals quartet, was originally published in 1992, when I was only a toddler. Of course, even after I started reading her books when I was a young teen, Pierce had continued to write and publish books, but for some reason I still didn’t think she was writing new stories.
Doing some math, I realized that Pierce is 64 and still writing. Her first book was published when she was 29, meaning she has been writing for 35 years. She grew up on fantasy and science fiction and adored so many stories about fantastic warriors and battles, and I find it inspiring that she wrote about many of the same elements that she loved with the crucial addition of female heroes. She wrote the stories that she needed to hear while struggling through her teens and twenties on her way to following her dreams.
“Write what you know” is one of the main writing tips I always see, but I quite like the idea of “write what you need” better.
Our 8-pound dog is scared of our turtle.
Once upon a time, Raph the turtle was hanging out in our den and Rachel gave her a piece of banana. Chip the dog wandered in, saw the turtle and the untouched banana, and decided that, hey, Raph isn’t eating the banana and it’s on the floor, so it must be up for grabs. Before we could blink, Chip inhaled the banana piece and Raph… wasn’t happy. Apparently Raph was saving the banana for later.
Chip was startled that the turtle suddenly turned and really got going toward her. Despite popular belief, turtles aren’t that slow. When they wanna move, they move. Chip was still faster, of course, but she was startled enough to never want to stay in the den whenever Raph came out of her tank.
It’s a bit of an irrational fear. Honestly, there are no indications that Raph remembers the stolen banana piece or if she holds grudges. But seeing the turtle turn on her is ingrained in Chip’s little brain and makes the pup dash out of the room whenever she so much as hears Raph’s tank open.
Fears help round out characters. Even if they don’t impact much of the story, fears shape a character’s personality and actions. Facing their fears is usually a fantastic make-or-break moment for characters in their stories as well. Does your character’s fear help shape your character’s personality or the other way around?
Netflix has this show called “Nailed It,” where amateur bakers compete to see who can create the most passable baked goods. Elaborate cupcakes, cakes, gingerbread houses, and even watermelon carvings are what the contestants try to recreate. The cast and crew are great, and it’s evident that this is a show that has fun and sometimes doesn’t take itself very seriously. There’s only two seasons so far and I’m definitely hoping there will be more.
Obviously, the challenges are timed and you can tell that some of the most complex desserts would never be able to be done in the time frame that’s allowed. Of course, that’s part of the challenge, to see how the contestants do with managing their time between decorating and baking something that’s edible. They’re not going to be on par with the professional creations but, dammit, these contestants try.
The whole premise of the show — aside from trying to win 10k with edible, semi-pretty cakes — is to learn. The judges critique not only the taste of the desserts, but they also instruct and help the contestants figure out where they went wrong and give tips on how they can improve.
My favorite episodes are where you can clearly see the contestants take the advice to heart after the first round and apply what they learned to the second round. With that said, the challenges give the constants room to add their own touches to their cakes. They are beginner bakers, not pros, and they need to improvise and put their own spin on the cakes in the time they have.
Being another creative pursuit, it’s a lot like writing.
You do not improve before making some mistakes. You first draft is not going to be at the same level as a professional. More experienced writers can and should give you well-meaning advice, but never forget that your writing is your own. Like baking, you need to put your own style, your own flair, into your work.
And, yeah, maybe your work won’t be the prettiest. Maybe it won’t be to everyone’s taste. But that work is yours. Be proud of what you have created in the time you created it, because you created something out of nothing and that is a fantastic feat to be proud of.