Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: England

Our Conversation Moves through Grammar toward Learning and Magic . . .

We’ve been having a conversation on this blog for 5 of the last 16 days—every Monday and Wednesday… Blog Conversations

The last go-round went into the shades of meaning of two phrases and how they lend themselves to explaining different approaches to our experience of reading.

I ended up saying:

Reading, with concentration and empathy, will help you escape into books as well as escaping with books—you can live inside the book; and, you can internalize the book’s world to help shield you from
“The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…

Which lead on to two comments, the first from Australia, the second from England (I’m over here in the U.S.A.…):

“The only grammar I learnt at school came from learning a foreign language. I learnt how to write by reading a lot and then under the care of a wonderful teacher, who, every day of my school life, asked for a paragraph of creative prose from each member of the class. We always wrote it in class and then read out what we had written. One day a student stood up and asked: ‘Why do you make us write such unhappy pieces?’ The teacher smiled and said: ‘I have never given you any topic to write about. You have written what you are feeling.’ It was true: we were confused adolescents. We escaped into our own little worlds and the rest of the class escaped into the small worlds we had created…we had never heard of transitive or intransitive :-)”

“I suppose I knew about transitive and intransitive when I did A level English but those phrases about books can be interpreted just as well without understanding grammar. After a while some readers just seem able to feel how to write, and read, without knowing too much grammar, which is why the new emphasis on grammar rules in Junior School English is a waste of time. By all means teach punctuation and discuss nouns, adjectives and adverbs, but what else do most people need? I agree with reciting tables (and poetry). Children will find that useful when, like me, they have forgotten most of the grammar they learned at school.”

So, before I add to the conversation proper, I’ll explain the title of this post—Our Conversation Moves through Grammar toward Learning, and Magic . . .

I got “learning” and “magic” from the etymology of Grammar:

“late 14c., ‘Latin grammar, rules of Latin’, from Old French gramaire ‘grammar; learning’, especially Latin and philology, also ‘(magic) incantation, spells, mumbo-jumbo'”


Both of those comments (from Australia and England) came from accomplished authors…

The first noting that grammar was only an experience related to learning a foreign language and the second putting grammar in the closet of things not worth a tremendous amount of attention…

I’ve even heard, from an English teacher in college, that the grammar we use in English is taken directly from Latin—weird, eh?

Yet, the first commenter brought up a glowing remembrance of writing creative paragraphs (an implied use of grammar) and the second made reference to understanding the structure of language by Feel, through experiencing it, while forgetting any grammar learned…

I am certain there are folks who spent many hours of their lives studying grammar, and continue to think about it for hours, and use what they learned and pondered—building a written piece from its bare skeleton out—applying the flesh as a mere necessity to hold the bones…

And, there are a flock of folks who are somewhere between that last group and our two accomplished authors…

Then, there are the crowd who one might call language fundamentalists—blowing themselves up in public over rigid ideas of what words are for…

Sure, there are some who write things poorly—concatenations nearly impossible to read—swerving all over the highway of meaning…

And, finally, those who put words down because something Magic, deep inside, moves them to relate creations that can enspell us into other worlds…

So, from confused and sad adolescents, pouring out their hearts, paragraph after paragraph, to those who’ve “forgotten” their “grammar” yet still tell stories—moving through Grammar toward Learning and Magic…

By the way, my favorite definition of Magic, from the Oxford Dictionary of English is:

very effective in producing the desired results

I’m sure I’ll eventually move away from so much etymologizing…

Still, once again, we’ve had some sort of “conversation” here…

And, if you feel like adding your thoughts and/or feelings to it, do, please, leave a comment :-)
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Interviewing Authors and Sharing Interviews . . .

Regular readers probably read the most recent author interview, detailing efforts to promote and market books

Author Interviews

Image from Michal Zacharzewski, SXC

And, to prep for this post, I counted up all the Author Interviews on this blog (as of this date…)—and, it’s 80.

For various reasons, it’s taken me a bit over six years to gather-up those interviews.


I spend a bit of time on Twitter…

And, because my posts here get pushed out to the TweetVerse, I have folks following me and it only seems fair to consider following them (except for the people who only want to sell me Twitter Followers…).


Not so many days ago, I noticed I’d received a Follow from @ERHardcastle, who turned out to be the author, editor, and literary-innovator, E. Rachael Hardcastle.

It’s only been a few days since I followed back and exchanged a few Tweets with her…

I noticed she works hard at gathering author interviews.

I compared my 80 in 6 years; and, found out she’d gathered over 50 author interviews in 2016!

Plans are for us to swap interviews

E. Rachael Hardcastle But who is this author?

Here’s her Bio:

Hi, I’m Rachael.

I’m a dreamer, a deep thinker, a bookworm and grammar nerd.

I write poetry between imaginative high fantasy, post-apocalyptic and science fiction novels.

I believe that through writing we face our darkest fears, explore infinite new worlds and realize our true purpose. I write to entertain and share important morals and values with the world, but above all, I write to be a significant part of something incredible.

All my fantasy and post-apocalyptic books face our planet’s struggles because I believe that together we can build a stronger future for the human race.

I support independent publishing so all my stories are written, edited, formatted and published by me, offering a low-cost, epic adventure and a memorable escape from reality for my readers.

I also discovered she does writing workshops with kids—this is why I called her a literary-innovator up there…

Here’s what one of the teachers said to her:

“Many thanks for your inspirational work with our Year 6 children who have really enjoyed their time with you. You have made them believe that writing is fun and that anyone can be an author if they work hard enough – and made it possible for them to be published authors too! We are very proud of our book and have it in pride of place in the classroom at the moment. Thank you!”


And, here’s a video (cute, funny, engaging, revealing) about her preparation for the coverage she received on the Made In Leeds TV show (her segment,in the TV station video, begins at the 4:50 mark):

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Author Interview ~ Jessica Greene

I’m delighted to welcome Jessica to our blog today!

I met her at Little Bonobo’s Book Cafe :-)

Let’s begin, Jessica.

Where are you from and how old are you?

I’m from San Diego, California, but I’ve lived in England for a few years now. I’m 25.

When did you begin writing and can you remember how it felt inside, back then?

I kept journals starting from when I was really small, and I liked to write and illustrate poems about animals in them. When I was 12 I decided to write a novel. It was about giant anthropomorphic rats from outer space. Unfortunately I didn’t get very far with it. In high school I did a couple of really fun creative writing projects for my English and creative writing classes. For one of these projects we had to choose a picture of a person from a newspaper or magazine and create a character from it. Each week we would write a story about the character. It was so much fun! I think it was around then that I decided I seriously wanted to be a writer.

Was there any certain date or time you remember when you began to call yourself a “writer”?

The year I did my MA in Creative Writing in Authorship. The people on my program and I referred to ourselves and each other as “writers”. By the end of that year I had started to think seriously of myself as a writer, rather than someone who wanted to be a writer.

What are your hopes, or dreams, or goals for your writing?

I want to be able to write a novel with interesting, believable characters and a solid plot with good flow and tension in the right parts. I’m revising my first novel now, and I hope I can get it to that point. Like most writers, I’d like to be published some day.

Please tell us a bit more about your formal training in the art of writing?

I have a degree in English, which helps, although I don’t think you need a degree to be a writer. I studied abroad for a year at UEA Norwich, in England. It’s supposed to be the top university in Britain for creative writing, but to be honest I didn’t notice much difference in the creative writing classes there compared to other classes I had taken elsewhere. They were helpful, but most creative writing classes are helpful. And I returned to England after I graduated to do my MA in Creative Writing and Authorship, this time studying in Sussex. It was quite an adventure.

It does sound a bit like an adventure; my, yes :-)

What do you feel has taught you the most about “how to write”?

Reading. Reading widely from a very young age. Reading deeply within my genre (currently I write YA fantasy), and reading different genres as well. I think writers need to read as much as they write. Stephen King’s advice is to read four hours a day and write four hours a day, which I think is pretty spot on. The other thing that has taught me a lot about writing is writing itself. Like everything else, it takes a lot of practice. I write nearly every day and I’ve seen a ton of improvement in my work in the past couple of years.

Who are your favorite writers and why are they favorites?

My best friend is scandalized by the fact that the Harry Potter series is my all-time favorite work of literature. But it really is so close to perfect. The characters are so unique, believable, lovable, hate-able; the plot is exciting; the twists are perfect; and the world JK Rowling creates is just a delight to get lost in for a couple of hours. For that reason I would say JK Rowling is my favorite author. I also love the Brontës. I love that their books explore female autonomy at a time when women were so oppressed, and I love that each sister has her own voice—Anne’s writing is wild, Emily’s dark, and Charlotte’s just plain strange. Another writer I really love is Tad Williams. The worlds he creates, and the characters—you just want to live inside his imagination. I love his novel Tailchaser’s Song, and his science fiction series Otherland just blew me away.

Yes, I’ve read only one of the Otherland books. Once I get my book published, I should read the others :-)

Where and/or how do you get your ideas for your writing?

My imagination has always been overactive, and I spend a lot of time thinking in terms of stories. So when I learn something interesting or see something interesting, it’s bound to make me think of a story. I came up with story ideas quite frequently while I was in college, because I was always learning new things. Generally I find travel, exercise, and reading to be great for the imagination.

What’s your normal revision or editing routine?

I’m revising my first novel at the moment. The plan is to write a fresh outline including all the changes I want to make, and go through several rounds of revision to make the plot, characters, and fantasy world as good as I can make them. One thing I’ve found helps a lot in editing is reading aloud (it helps catch typos and awkward phrasing), so I’ll be doing a lot of that. Then I’ll do a final proofread and send it out to beta readers, who will in turn likely tear it to shreds.

Reading aloud is an awesome revision aid! And, I hope (and suspect) your Betas won’t be that cruel :-)

Tell us about your blog: its purpose, how you go about deciding what to post, and what you want to do with it in the future?

My blog called Little Bonobo’s Book Cafe and I post about reading, writing, and creativity. I love being part of the writer/blogger community. It’s a fun way to meet other writers, share ideas, offer encouragement, and learn new information. I’m still trying to figure out my posting schedule— whether I want to do certain types of posts on certain days, or focus more on reading or writing or book reviews. I’ve seen some amazing blogs lately, and I’m feeling inspired to improve mine.

Please say just a bit more about the book you’re working on.

My novel is a young adult fantasy about a teen-aged girl whose little brother has been kidnapped by a faerie magician. I love stories about magic, and it’s been really fun (and challenging) creating my own world from scratch. At the moment I’m also working on a second novel—a young adult science fiction set on Mars—but its still in the early stages, and I’ve got a ton more research to do.

Well, Jessica, I can only see bright omens ahead for you :-) Thanks ever so much for stopping by and I’ll see you soon at Little Bonobo’s Book Cafe.
Alright, dear readers, time to ask Jessica a few questions…
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