June, reporting live from the writing-front

1) Sorry for my absence in the blog sphere! A million pages of readings and a millions essays have taken up most of my time. But I did do some brainstorming for the revision of Fall of the Sparrows. I decided that I needed to develop Lenore’s side of the story more. As it is James (the hero) has stolen the spotlight and Lenore is just…there….for the sake of his character arc.

In this new version, I’m planning to add more focus to Lenore’s passion for the arts. Since she was a child, she worked as a servant for a well-reputed artist—an artist who was one of the few women accepted into the Royal Academy in London [I’m still not sure whether to make this woman a ficticious or real character]. It was through this kind woman that Lenore also discovered her love for painting. But after the death of her mistress, Lenore is recommended into the service of the Duke’s household. There, as a servant, she is meant to be an invisible entity to her superiors….but, to the shock of all, she gains the favour of the heir apparent with, at first, her surprising artistic skills, and later her kind heart.

As you can see, with both The Runaway Courtesan and this story, I’m a sucker for these great social divides between a hero and heroine. Of course, I will keep the servant-master relationship as realistic as possible. I’ll try not to turn this into a story like Pamela by Samuel Richardson (a classic story about a gentleman who falls in love with his maid, kidnaps her, tries to seduce her, and in the end, failing to do so, marries her). I borrowed a stack of books from the library, secondary and primary sources, and after some researching, I was completely captured by the dangerous and unfortunate world the servants lived in:

Young, single girls taken away from their family, their friends, and relations meant that just when they needed protection from sexual exploitation they were taken away from those best able to give it…miles away from their own village and family the young female lonely and isolated.

….the very nature of servants’ quarters contributed to their vulnerability – often they were mere spaces on landings or virtual cupboards without windows or, sometimes, even doors ….if given room, small attics. Quarters could never be locked. Housekeeper kept the keys: servants had to be accessible at all times, privacy was not for them

“…going to bed, the maid’s room and bed facing the stairs as I came up, she in bed and the candle burning, I could see her at different times uncovered…very tempting to a man, for she was a pretty young girl….” The only action he took was to give her a lecture on the danger of going to sleep with the candle still alight.

While I’m adding more chemistry between the hero and heroine, and while I’m adding a more romantic flare to this story, FOTS is still more of a family focused story. The hero’s side of the story, which is his broken relationship with his father, will have the dominant focus.

2) I was at the coffee shop from 2pm until 11pm. I told myself, when I first arrived, that I wouldn’t leave until I finished reading the book–Monkey Beach by Eden  Robinson–which I had to write my English paper on. I didn’t REALLY mean to stay until finishing, of course. Reading the remaining hundreds of pages at a coffee shop? In one sitting? Possible…but….I knew I wouldn’t be surprised if I just got up and left without finishing. I thought that I was, as usual, being over-ambitious. But ohmygosh the book turned out to be so, so, so,  SOOOO good after the first half that I couldn’t stop reading. After a cup of tea and then coffee and an oatmeal cookie later, I closed the book, and stared blankly ahead with my heart going a-flutter. It was the best book I read this school year. And it was THE BEST coming-of-age story I’ve read in my entire life. I don’t remember reading a book that made me laugh so much, smile so stupidly, or feel my heart ache so badly. Seriously,  a great book. 

Lisamarie Hill, the protagonist of Eden Robinson’s coming-of-age novel Monkey Beach, is a terror. She’ll run out of an evacuating car to get a better view of a tidal wave. She’ll drag you unconscious to a deserted island with nothing but cigarettes, marshmallows, and the need to get you talking. Whatever her age, she’ll ask awkward questions.

Set in the coastal Haisla village of Kitamaat near British Columbia’s dauntingly gorgeous Queen Charlotte Islands, Monkey Beach is the story of Lisa and her Haisla community, including uncles involved in First Nations warrior movements, industrious grandmothers with one foot in the grave and the other in various spirit worlds, and the long-armed specter of residential schools. The path to adulthood (and you risk a bloody nose if you call Lisa an adult) for Lisa and her friends is beset by the dangers of substance abuse and family violence but sprinkled with hopes as varied as Olympic gold or, sadly, a “really great truck.”

Me and Alex

3) It’s been my dream for years [well, ever since I saw Mr. Darcy fencing in the ’95 adaptation] to learn how to fence. Then, lo and behold!–Alex, from our writing group, told us about this free fencing class being offered at our university. We joined, and it was so awesome. After about 40 minutes of learning the basic moves, we went out into the hallway of Emmanuel College to practice fencing. It was so epic. I was all giddy, hearing the rapiers clashing, echoing against the stone walls. *swoon* We’ll be going every wednesday to learn. Some of us are also going for the sake of our writing–how great is it to actually experience what we write about, fencing duels and all! *nerdy grin*

Dear Readers,

Did you ever go out of your way to experience first-hand what you plan on writing about? Here’s my list of activities I have and have yet to experience.

1) Horse riding
2) Drinking tea with egg
3) Fencing

4) Riding in a carriage
5) Dressing in a 18th/19th century gown
6) Touring an English manor
7) Attend a Regency ball

4) The song I recently discovered and fell SO MUCH in love with. Brought tears to my eyes.


11 thoughts on “June, reporting live from the writing-front

  1. you know, if you come to NY during the winter, you could accomplish #4. Although, it’ll be more of a barouche than an enclosed carriage.

    Rowenna could probably help with #5

    Study Abroad for #6 and…

    #7…you can hold as your launch party! ^_^


    • Oh thanks for making those plans actually seem achievable! haha.Because I honestly thought that the carriage riding part would be a tad difficult… but a barouche is gooood.

      I guess i just need the time to accomplish the last few points. Now I’ll definately be heading over to NY one of these days… maybe after i graduate or something.


  2. Welcome back! 🙂

    I’m looking forward to see the changes in FOTS, sounds promising! Lenore was such a lovable character and I’m glad that she’s going to get more time in the limelight.

    I haven’t fenced but I really, really want to and nor have I tried tea with egg – not sure I want to. Although, I have ridden a horse – very briefly with a partner – and dressed in a Victorian era gown (it wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it would be, but that’s cold depend on my not having tied he corset as tight as they would have or having to wear it for more than an hour).


    • DO NOT try tea with egg. It was only after i drank it and was feeling weired that i read the following passage, about how Byron drank this way because he wanted to throw up his food afterwards.

      And good thing you didn’t tighten the corset as they would have. I can’t imagine that it would be good for your ribs! I saw pics of how the organs were all shoved upwards because of the hourglass corsetting


  3. Yay! The new take on FOTS sounds awesome…I can’t wait to see how it all plays out! And I’ve always wanted to learn fencing, too–I had a good friend growing up who was a national-level fencer–watching her was incredible.

    Ms. Shay is right–if you ever find yourself in the Midwest, let me know–would be happy to help you with #5 (and potentially #6…though it might have to be more 18th century country dance than 19th century ball).

    Good to hear you’re well–if busy! 🙂


    • I can’t wait to share the new version with you : D

      Woooow, a national level fencer… I never realized how difficult fening was until I actually tried to defend myself from getting poked at with the rapier

      And yes! I would love to learn some tips from you on how to make a gown


  4. I used to be Vice-Captain of the college fencing team – so I salute you, fencing is more than sport, its a passion. Plus, as a writer you get to know all about swordfights!


    • Yes! I’m sure it’s possible…. somehow…. But doing the three items on the same day (preferrablt in the evening!)would be oh so…. romantic? lol

      P.S. I know!!! 😀


  5. Hi June, I read Lolita this semester! I had to read it for my literary theory class. Humbert Humbert is made into a likeable rapist through the beautiful, poetic language involved that becomes very persuasive. Certain situations through his perspective make her seem complicit but to me, it’s obvious she is so deluded and numb. As HH mentions near the end, he realizes that Lolita just sees him as an object, not even a man and that the basic needs taken away from her childhood made her anger and frustration become a kind of numbness. As this was also a class on the Frankfurt school of thought, I can see the aspects of consumption and Adorno’s theory of the “culture industry” in the novel. Some people discussed how the novel is about a cultural clash of the hyper-civilized European culture meeting American culture, ironically showing the total irrationality and degeneration of this European HH. In addition, I saw Lolita as an object of consumption for HH, as HH’s desires conform to expectations reinforced by the culture industry (tastes that are supposed to be different but are actually “eversame”). We also discussed HH’s supposed freedom, which is not freedom at all, but entrapment in his cyclical search for that perfect, nostalgic nymphet.

    Hee… just felt like sharing what I learned. We can talk about this more when I see you.


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