Friday, June 19, 2015

The writer’s toolkit, or the messy desk

And now for something a little lighter.

I thought I’d list the essentials found in a writer’s toolkit, or on and around her desk. 

* Pens, fountain pens preferred and a few jars of ink in different shades of blue
* Notebooks: I prefer the Moleskine ruled notebook 13 x 21 cm
* Curiosity
* Empathy
* Quiet time and space
* Functioning technology; I recommend having tech-savvy offspring in the house
* Friends who will pull you away for a much needed coffee break
* People to talk to/email with/write to in different parts of the country and the world - it helps broaden the perspective
* Books!! Lots and lots of books. Different genres, subjects, even comic books
* Truly good coffee or tea
* Spell checker, but NO autocorrect! A proofreader with a sharp red pencil helps a lot too
* Life experience
* A love of travel
* Child-like wonder (see ‘Curiosity’)
* Imagination
* Only a loose grip on reality (see ‘Imagination’)
* Sense of humor, especially in handling rejections
* Good snacks, for the purpose of this blog we’ll pretend they’re healthy
* A daily walk, preferably with a dog
* A good cat to warm up the keyboard or your chair for you on cold mornings
* A candle
* A chunk of raw amethyst
* Small vase with a white rose
* Sharp red pencils to give to your editors and proofreaders
* Patience, lots of patience
* Lots of bits of paper (including paper napkins, envelopes and post-its) with notes, story ideas, snippets of dialogue, and reminders to schedule mundane things that are part of ‘real’ life

If I’ve missed anything, please feel free to add it in the comment section!

This blog can now also be found on my website:

Friday, June 5, 2015


Writing about diversity turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. I gave the subject considerable thought, which is why this blog post is many weeks later than I promised. 

Much has been said and written in the past couple of years about the need for diversity in books, children’s books in particular, in order to reflect our diverse society in a more realistic way. However, it’s not just a matter of tossing in a few ‘diversity candidates’  and calling it good. It requires far more than that.

Each character an author places in their story comes with its own background which is - or should be - known to the author who created that character. 

By adding characters of different colors, religion, sexual or gender orientation, the author needs to understand the culture this character might have grown up in, not just the meta culture of say, the United States or Europe, but the subculture. What was home like? What are the nuances of the character’s subculture that inform that character’s decisions, drives and motivations? What has formed the character’s psychological make up?

If all that is missing in the author’s creation of characters then you end up simply putting a few more stereotypes on the page. 

Characters need to be woven into your story, yet retain their individuality and come across as authentic. This is why life-experience and travel is a valuable tool in any writer’s toolkit. But that’s for a discussion on what makes a writer. 

All this brings me back to the superhero comic books (from the previous post) - and now TV shows - where I first noticed a more diverse cast. The young artists at DC and Marvel in the 1960s didn’t shy away from including characters of color. In some ways they were the first to bring diversity, along with Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, to the mainstream during a tumultuous time of redefining a culture. A process that continues as more and more people gain recognition and acceptance, even if at times that process feels like it’s moving at a snail’s pace. 

As I grow and learn as a writer and as a human being on this spinning, blue ball hurtling through space, I will strive to make the characters in my books more diverse, to mirror the world around me.