Category Archives: Guest Blog

Guest Post: Victoria Treder

What Makes a Writer?

We’ve all heard the line, “If you want to be a writer, then write,” but what kind of writing counts? If you want to write novels, but you spend your time posting to a blog, does that count? Sure, you are practicing your craft, but are you “writing”? Is writing in the eye of the beholder or the pen holder?

What if your penchant is for poetry, but your rent requires writing articles. Of course, you can say that you are a writer, but are you a “writer”? You know, the kind who gets asked at cocktail parties, “What have you written? Have I read it?” If your answer is, “I extolled the virtues of Jenny Craig over Weight Watchers in the latest issue of Glamour,” you’re liable to get a blank look in response. If you can at least say, “In last month’s Cosmo, I raved about this little known island in the Pacific. Have you ever heard of Atuitaki?”, you’ll get a bit of wide-eyed interest back. Travel is fun and exciting. Dieting is not.

The only way to get respect for writing how-to’s on mundane subjects is to squeeze out an entire book. An article on choosing the right college elicits only yawns, but a book on How to Get the Most Out of Your College Experience rates oohs and aahs. Making a living explaining the dull, everyday stuff pegs you as in it just for the money, unless you can manage to cobble together a sufficient number of words for independent publication, a feat that immediately elevates you to the status of “author”. But what if you’ve published your How-To book? Are you then a “writer”, if your dream is to publish a novel? Or are you just a hack with a knack for stringing together a lot of words?

What makes a writer? Is it the content, the length, or the aspirations of the person herself? If you are making a living writing articles for magazines, a job that others only dream of, are you a writer if you really prefer to pen poignant short stories on the meaning of life?

Is the definition of writer determined by you, or by others? Is there a difference between calling yourself a “writer”, and saying that you write for a living? There are millions of words that surround us every day; someone has set them down in a particular order; someone has put some thought into their placement. Is it the thought that makes a writer? Or the ultimate goal the writer seeks to attain?

Is writing just another skill? Or is it a calling? Is it the level of discourse that determines, or the mechanism through which writers choose to communicate?  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I chose to call myself a writer when I first decided to write fiction, even though so far I have been paid only for my non-fiction work. I have a streak of romanticism that refuses to be subdued.

Guest blogger Victoria Treder blogs about politics, education, and the state of our nation at

Guest Post:Michael D Fowler

Learning to Write: 10 Things I Now Know

This year is my first attempt at NaNoWriMo and while I have written many things before I have found that even in these early stages I have learnt a lot about myself and writing. Today I am going to share these with you as well as my first thoughts about NaNo.

  1. Writing is hard work. This one I knew already. I have written things before, albeit not on this scale and not in such a small time scale but every time it was work. That’s not to say I have not been enjoying it. I love writing but sometimes the mental, effort used to put something onto paper (or screen) is intense. NaNo has reinforced this.
  2. A deadline only increases the work. This one may only apply to me because I was born with an incredible and limitless ability to be lazy, even with things that I really want to do. Adding a deadline to something on some level makes me want to put off doing it. It moves from being a hobby to work, and that is something I always want to avoid.
  3. Planning is invaluable. I planned my novel thoroughly before November. In real life I like to know exactly where I need to be and exactly when I need to be there. This has spilled over to NaNo. The idea of not knowing beforehand irked me, so for thirty days before the start I planned everything thoroughly. I actually did this in no time at all and went on to plan another project as well. I know some people say this kills the creative juices but for me it is essential to have peace of mind.
  4. It is impossible to stick to plan, no matter how much you want to. The basic outline of my structure remains mostly intact, but when you are writing new ideas fly at you in their dozens. The story changes and evolves and eventually a character you designed is unrecognisable anymore. Only a handful of days in and my story, while mostly the same, has also changed considerably.
  5. I have the discipline. I have already mentioned that I am chronically lazy. It is nice to have learnt that when I really apply myself to something I can do it. Hopefully I can use this in other areas of my life too.
  6. It is very difficult to turn my inner editor off. For smaller projects this is not so much of a problem but when attempting something larger like NaNo my inner editor is pulling it’s hair out at the idea of leaving a sentence imperfect
  7. Write for yourself and nobody else. Sometimes I look at my work and I think, will anyone other than me enjoy this story? And then I think who cares as long as I enjoy it? I know for many people the ultimate goal is to become published but the moment when you start writing for an agent or editor you are well into the realms of seeing it as a job rather than something you want to do. Chances are you’ll find that other people will enjoy it, and that if it is written well you will be able to create an audience, so in the mean time don’t worry about it. An editor will tell you if he thinks any major changes are required.
  8. This links back to the previous point. Don’t worry about not reaching your goal. Nobody is going to reprimand you if you don’t reach it and I certainly won’t think any less about you. It’s important that you enjoy what you do, even if it means going at your own pace. Whether it takes you a month, two or more it’s your project and while NaNo is great for motivation don’t let it become an obsession. Writing is incredibly addicting, and like and addiction it can be detrimental.
  9. Putting your life on hold is not a good idea. Sometimes the desire to reach the set word count leaves me thinking I need to ditch my friends, leave homework unfinished (I attend an adult language school every day) and basically kill my social life. Don’t there is no point and it is not healthy. You will find you have plenty of time so reward yourself for your effort ever while and then.
  10. Nothing written is written badly. Ok not exactly true your first draft is going to be awful but it’s not bad in the sense that it will ultimately improve your skill. Everything you write is practice and like all forms of art it needs to be practiced for you to improve.

Overall my current experience with NaNo is a positive one. I have learnt that I am capable of doing this and I have a new found respect for Authors that publish books on a regular basis. I’ve learnt a bit about what it takes and about myself and I can only learn more.

This guest post was written by Michael D Fowler. Michael Fowler is a university graduate from Cornwall in England who is now living in Berlin. Having finished his degree he experience a sudden panic and for the time being at least, has walked away form his degree in Biomedical Science and opted for a life as an Au Pair in Berlin. You can learn more about his life as an Au Pair and a bit about his attempt at becoming a better writer at

Guest Blog: Jo Ann Mason

Book Review:

A Fool’s Tale by Nicole Galland

A Fool’s Tale is an extraordinary mix of real life history and romantic fiction set in the tumultuous world of 10th century Wales. Themes of loyalty, betrayal and survival are the driving force behind this spellbound telling of the trials and tribulations of Gwirion (Gir-EE-on), King Maelgwin’s (Mile- gwin) fool and the uncommon yet very powerful relationship between them. The two men are inseparable, bound together since childhood by extenuating circumstances, and are almost never without the other. But when the King marries young Isabel, in hopes to form an alliance with his long-standing Norman rival Roger Mortimer, that bond is tested beyond its limits. In no time Gwirion becomes caught in the middle of a perilous love triangle that puts all three lives in danger.

Isabel knew beyond a doubt that when she was allowed to marry it would be for political purposes. However, in her the back of her mind was the wish for the kind of romance she read about Chretien de Troyes’s Lancelot and the Round Table. King Maelgwin is young and handsome and for a brief moment a spark of hope for a happy marriage blossoms in her mind until she sees how much more Gwirion means to the King than she does. She struggles to fit in to the Welsh culture, which her maid servant Adele calls barbaric. Though the King consistently urges her to learn to like Gwirion the bitterness between her and the Fool grows daily. Her relationship with the King, his habit of inviting his serving girls to his chambers, Gwirion’s constant immodest and offensive foolery and her inability to produce an heir after a horrific miscarriage all take their toll on her. Until she and Gwirion are imprisoned together by one of the King’s disloyal allies.

King Maelgwin is handsome, brave and bold as a king should be. However, he is manipulative, selfish and quite often over indulgent when it comes to Gwirion. To the King Isabel is nothing more than a political tool, one he must pacify yet control to get what he needs. Most of the time he treats her like a child that he doesn’t really want but must tolerate. He encourages Gwirion to torment the Queen with his distasteful behavior. He, himself, torments her with backhanded comments about her being a Mortimer, belittling her ability to rule in his place and his nightly affairs with Madrun, one of the kitchen girls. Maelgwin is at times cold and exceedingly cruel yet at times you find yourself completely taken in by his charm.

Gwirion is an orphan and due to events that happened in their childhood he is beholding to Maelgwin for eternity and the King never ceases to remind him of this. He is an accomplished harpist which is the one good quality that Isabel allows him, in the beginning. He, along with his friend Corr, a midget, commits horrendously inappropriate pranks in public, often humiliating visiting lords, especially Isabel’s relatives. Although he comes and goes throughout the castle and the village as he pleases, he belongs to the King and there is nothing he can do in the way of living his own life without Maelgwin’s permission.

This story is a must read for historical romance lovers. The characters will make laugh and cry and become infuriated throughout the book. Ms. Galland provides you with a pronunciation guide for the Welsh language. But it won’t take long to acclimate your tongue to the names of these delightful characters.

By Jo Ann Mason


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