A Wrinkle in Time: the Movie that Wasn’t

I am grateful for all books. There are tons of books that I have loved. Then, there are those that I reread every year or two: Misty of Chincoteague, Little Women, and Dune. And then there is the book that made me believe: A Wrinkle in Time the Movie that Wasn’t.

For me, these books are like good friends who share a hug, a laugh, a feeling of hope or inspiration. There is a little of the wise mentor in each of the books. Each book showed me new ways to perceive the world around me. Each of these books spoke to me so strongly that I experienced more than a good read.

Grateful For These Books

Misty of Chincoteague

Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague spoke to me as a little girl longing for a horse of her own. My imagination enriched the story with layers of characterization and detail. Then, when I read it as an adult I found the story sweet, but disappointingly not as profound as I had remembered. But this book belongs on this list, because of the way the words on the page blossomed in my mind. I hope one day to write a story that has the power to compel a reader to make it more than it is.

Little Women

I read Little Women by Louise Alcott as a preteen. The characters, their lives, their dreams pervaded my own preteen life. I identified with Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth and adopted some of their mannerisms. I wished for hair as long as Jo’s so I could cut it off to make money for my family. I’ve reread and reread the same paperback book until it literally fell apart. I still love the March family and their story. A rich story with layers that reveal a different nuance every time I read it, it will always be near the top of my list.

Dune

I read Dune by Frank Herbert as a young adult and was immediately swept away into a world where water was precious. Paul’s growth from youth to messiah for the Fremen mesmerized me. The society captivated me. The growth of faith echoed a maturation of my own faith (not that I think I am or have any desire to be, a messiah!). The book resonated with me physically. While I read it I was acutely aware of wasting water. Rereading that book I admire how the author’s use of words continues to sweep me up in the saga. Yes, it’s very near the top of my list as well, but not the first on the list.

A Wrinkle in Time: the movie that wasn’t

A Wrinkle in Time, the movie that wasn't. Until now.

No, I would have to say that the very top of my list is occupied by A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I read it shortly after it had been published (1962). All I had to do was read the first page which begins with “It was a dark and stormy night.” Meg Murry is sitting on the edge of her bed, wrapped in an old quilt and shakes with the house in the storm. But it wasn’t the storm that had upset her, it was the storm on top of everything else. On top of everything that was wrong with her.

Oh, boy. Meg was just like me. She wasn’t measuring up. She felt dumb and out of place and out of sorts. I had moved five or six times by the time I read this book. Man, I could relate to Meg’s feelings. And I envied her, her parents seemed oh, so much more sympathetic and supportive than mine. (My parents just didn’t understand). But Meg had a problem, her father was missing. And if you know the story, you know Meg gets a visit from Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. Meg and her brother, Charles, tesser and go to another dimension. There they battle a great evil. There are many memorable scenes in this story, not the least of which e is the subdivision where every house looks the same, homeowners and children act in unison, creating an eerie feeling of wrongness.

In the end, it is only with great love that Meg is able to triumph over evil and save her brother and her father.

The Movie that Wasn’t

This story played so vividly in my mind, that even as an adult I was convinced that I had seen a movie of it. When discussing this book with a writer friend, I insisted the movie had existed. I even said it featured the Pete Seeger song, “Little Boxes.” No, there was no movie — at least, not during my childhood. Seeger’s song coincidentally came out at the same time as L’Engle’s book, though it fits the subdivision scene as if it were made for it.

The message of A Wrinkle in Time, that great love can overcome great evil, found it’s way into my heart. It gave me hope through dark times. And when the dark corners of my life grow darker and I need a reminder, I return to the book. It gives me strength. It reminds me that if you find it within yourself to love — really love — you will triumph. What greater message could there be?

With the message, the characters, and the ‘movie,’ the top of my list belongs to A Wrinkle in Time. It’s the number one book for which I am grateful.

What book is at the top of your list of books for which you are grateful and why?

If you liked these short reviews of books I’ve read, you might like my other reviews:

Top Ten Science Fiction Novels I Love to Re-Read

Going to Mars: Word by Word

LATE BREAKING NEWS!

My post A Wrinkle in Time: the Movie that Wasn’t is still true, but a movie is being made!  I can’t wait to see it. Check out the trailer below.

 

(This post, originally written in 2011, has been edited to remove references to the giveaway contest hosted by author Beth Revis that ran at the time this post was written. She asked bloggers to write about books for which you are grateful. It was also edited to share my excitement about the upcoming movie.)

From Giant Lego Man to Tiny Ninjas

It’s Friday and time for a collection of the weird and wonderful from across the web from the Giant Lego Man to Tiny Ninjas.

Giant Lego Man washes ashore

Giant Lego Man to Tiny Ninjas, lynettemburrows.com

Do you really want a world that’s totally honest?

Which came first Fact or Fiction? Why Science Fiction, of course!

Youth ready for blast-off

Is Big Brother in your pocket?

Giant Lego Man to Tiny Ninjas, lynettemburrows.com
Thanks to copyright free images. Photo by Paolo Neo.

UFOs as your home away from home

Tiny Ninjas

Giant Legos to Tiny Ninjas, lynettemburrows.com
Armed and curious … children in their costumes. Photo: Reuters

Two Secret Rules for Writers

All sorts of people, from experienced professionals to the newest of neophytes, offer up rules on how to write, what to write, the order of scenes, types of characters, rules about rules for every flavor of writing from nonfiction to flash fiction. The rules offered by one author are often contradicted by the rules of another. The new writer searches and sorts through all of this looking for the secret rules for writers. She seems to think there is a secret out there that once unveiled will lead her down a petal-strewn path to a shiny finished manuscript and a publication contract. Here are two secret rules for writers that shouldn’t be a secret.

All sorts of people, from experienced professionals to the newest of neophytes, offer up rules on how to write, what to write, the order of scenes, types of characters, rules about rules for every flavor of writing from nonfiction to flash fiction. The rules offered by one author are often contradicted by the rules of another. The new writer searches and sorts through all of this looking for the secret rules for writers. She seems to think there is a secret out there that once unveiled will lead her down a petal-strewn path to a shiny finished manuscript and a publication contract. lynettemburrows.com
A nib of a Parker-Duofold-Pinstripe International fountain pen, © Parker Pens, creative commons

The secret rule is:   

There is no secret.  Nor is there one, right path to publication.  The only real rules for writing are those of grammar, syntax, and editor guidelines.  And even those rules can be broken if you have an understanding of what you are doing and why.

Is there harm in reading the advice of others?  Possibly.  If your attempt to “follow the rules” drowns your muse in the overload of information, freezes her in the quandary between opposing rules, or blocks her with rules that don’t apply.

I propose that as you immerse yourself in the “how-to” books and articles that you will undoubtedly seek out, make two hard and fast rules.

Rule one: The story trumps all rules.

There are all kinds of good books and articles out there on how to write a story, I won’t rehash any of that in this article.  But there is very little out there to help the budding novelist sort the wheat from the shaft.  That brings us to:

Rule two:

All how-to advice is one of two things: a guideline or a tool.

A tool is any method by which you can help yourself discover the novel within.  A writer needs many tools in order to achieve a strong, well-written final draft.  You, the writer, get to pick and choose which tools you need and when you need them.

A guideline is a principle that sets an indication of a course of action as opposed to a rule which is a principle governing conduct, action, procedures, etc.  The difference is huge.

Rules confine you to one course of action. Guidelines give you boundaries and limitations in order to achieve a goal, but do not force your muse on down a particular line.  And just as with tools, the writer decides which guidelines apply to his story.  How do you decide which guidelines to use?  That’s a post for another day.  In the meantime, find tools and guidelines that allow your muse to play and be creative.

Want to read about some tools and guidelines? Try a few of these:

The Best Writer’s Tool

Stories Need Structure

Re-Visioning Your Story

The two secret rules for writers are not a secret — develop a selection of tools and guidelines and free your muse to write the best story you can.

Believe

Do you believe in heroes?

The other day when I revealed the work I’d done on my husband’s website, my husband called me his hero. It took me by surprise. Me? A hero? We talked for a while about what he meant and it got me to thinking about who I call a hero.

Chinese symbol for believe, lynettemburrows.com

As a little girl, I loved stories about heroes and heroines. I believed in the everyman characters who became heroes through their grand, selfless acts. I believed with my whole heart.

Today, I still believe in heroes. Yes, I am a romantic optimist. I believe in the classic hero, the kind that I write about in my action-suspense science fiction novels. But I also believe in ‘everyday’ heroes.

Definition of Hero

  1.  a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability
  2. an illustrious warrior
  3. a person admired for achievements and noble qualities 
  4. one who shows great courage
  5. the principal character in a literary or dramatic work —used specifically of a principal male character especially when contrasted with heroineMerriam-Webster Dictionary

The third definition is what’s important in this discussion. A person admired for achievements and noble qualities. There are lots of those heroes.

Classic Heroes

Our men and women on the battlefields are heroes, the ones whose acts we learn about and many we, the public, will never know. So too, men and women in the newspaper whose bold acts catch the public eye, like the cafeteria worker walking to work who stopped to pull a family to safety from their burning home, are heroes. These are heroes in the classic sense of the word: men and women who perform feats of great courage or nobility of purpose often at great risk to themselves. I do not want to denigrate these acts. These people are heroes. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for their service, their selflessness.

But there are other heroes The heroes whose acts of great courage and nobility of purpose are not bold and do not require public acts of strength or self-sacrifice. These are the heroes who typically do not even think of themselves as heroes, but they are. They are people we can look up to and hope to emulate.

’Everyday’ Heroes

As a pediatric nurse, I see ‘everyday’ heroes and heroines on a daily basis. They are family members, parents, foster parents, and patients who face what seem to be insurmountable odds. They have suffered personal tragedies, traumas, or setbacks. I look at their lives from the outside and think it must take a tremendous amount of courage in order to get through their day.

I am certain there are days when they feel beat down as if they can’t take another step. Yet, they move forward with a smile, with profound love and kindness. They go to work every single day, help their family, do the things that need to be done. It wasn’t how they envisioned their life. They adapt, modify, incorporate the things they must do into their everyday life. Many of them don’t just follow the path they were given. They manage to step outside the box and follow their dream.

How do they do that?

I think the ones that manage to do this are a little like bulldogs themselves. They have a tenacious belief in their goal. It is that belief that keeps them moving forward, a belief that sometimes is so ingrained in who they are that they don’t even know they are doing something ‘against all odds.’

Sometimes, life beats you down. Maybe medical issues, economic issues, security, or any of the thousands of other possibilities have overcome you. Next time you think you’ve lost that optimism, that belief in your own courage, that belief in yourself. Remember heroes do exist, in stories and in real life. Remember that you may be someone’s hero without even knowing it. And remember to believe . . .

Believe in your dreams.
Believe in today.
Believe that you are loved.
Believe that you make a difference.
Believe we can build a better world.
Believe when others might not.
Believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Believe that you might be that light for someone else.
Believe that the best is yet to be.
Believe in each other.
Believe in yourself

Kobi Yamada

Perhaps you need a little mood music to believe. Try reading and listening to “Celebrating Daydreams and Heroes.”

I believe in heroes. I believe you are a hero. Do you? Who are some of your heroes?

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

One of the most frequent questions asked of writers is: Where do you get your ideas? Often writers respond with sarcasm like ‘I pick them up at the store’ or ‘I steal them from other writers.’ I don’t think that is fair.

A writer may have heard the question a million-and-one times, but I have learned that people who don’t write, are truly curious and sometimes in awe of how writers get ideas for novels. No matter who asks the questions, nor why, it deserves an answer.

The answer is:

Where do I get my ideas? Nowhere. Everywhere. No, I’m not trying to be evasive. It’s true. It’s a way of thinking, a way of seeing the world. You may not be a writer, but I’m guessing there is something that you do that is equally awesome.

Examples:

As a child, my son’s curiosity as to how things worked drove me wild. If a toy could be taken apart, he found a way to do it, down to the last teensy-tiny screw. I would try to reconstruct the toy, but alas, that is NOT my talent. By the time my son was six or seven years old, he put the toy back together himself, in better working order than ever. Soon he began creating something new and different with the parts. He still has that ability today.

I have a friend who can take a basic recipe and add a dash of this and a dab of that. She is able to do this because of the way her brain works and because she has practiced an awareness of foods and what cooking methods produce what results. Her end result will always be something unique and tasty. And no matter how many cooking shows I watch, nor how carefully follow a recipe, my results are not as good.

My husband is an artist. He sees things in an entirely different way than I do. He sees line, color, composition, and things I don’t see or understand. Presto-chango: he creates a drawing. Ok. It’s not really magic. He has studied and practiced drawing. He expresses his way of thinking in a picture.

A new story idea?

Anytime I hear a song, a phrase, read an article or observe something interesting my brain automatically tries to make it a story. It takes a bit of this, a bit of that and knits it together in a way that makes me curious, makes me want to explore the idea and characters in words. It typically invents the feeling of the story first, the emotional pull or ending. The layers of character, plot, and setting are discovered as I explore the feeling.

Telling you about those three people above, I’m struck by a feeling that there is a story there: they are a family, each interpreting an important event so differently that they are driven apart. The struggle to understand each other’s point of view might drive such a story.

At this point, the idea is derivative. But working that idea around for a while, I am bound to come up with better conflicts, motivations and character arcs. You see, I’ve studied story structure, how other writers write, and I’ve practiced writing. Thus, when the initial idea or feeling of a story occurs to me, I will massage it, twist it, and test it until it is something I can’t wait to write.

If you’d like to see how a bit of research can become part of a story, take a look at my post, “My Story Went to the Dogs or Inspiration from Fire and Brimstone and Redemption or Inspiration from Real-life Heart-wrenching History.

Talent

I believe that everyone has a talent: an interpretation of things observed, read, or felt. Some people have ignored or hidden their talent, some dismiss their talent as useless, others use their talent and creativity. I’ve discovered my talent: writing stories. What about you? Where do you get your ideas?