A blog for all things personal, informational, educational, and fun.
Here at my personal blog Thoughts & Things, I share a wide variety of, you guessed it, thoughts and things. Anything that sparks my interest is up for discussion. For those who are uncertain of what that might cover, I'll generally talk about reading, writing, books, movies, music, games, history, current events, and feminism. I talk about my personal emotional and health struggles from time to time. I'm also a big fan of lists.|
This is the place here at WDC where you can get to know me best, as I talk about the things that interest me, impact me, and amuse me.
|As a child, I enjoyed books, movies, and television just as much as other children. I ended up developing quite the number of role models who did not exist in real life, but who were very real to me. I had so many fictional people that I consistently looked up to as a child that I can't actually remember all of them. I can remember enough of them to share them right here though.
As a child, I was quite the bookworm and know-it-all, so of course I read Harry Potter endlessly, and of course I related to Hermione a good deal. Hermione showed me that you can be book smart, you can be true to yourself, and in the end of it all, you'll still have good friends that you can be the hero with and for. Hermione was top of her class, an activist, a bookworm, an animal lover, and a hero.
I actually owned several copies of Anne of Green Gables, watched the movies and the cartoons, and visited Green Gables in PEI. I was quite fascinated by Anne and her story. Anne showed me that you could be a dreamer, a writer, passionate about education, passionate about life, and that you could do all of that even if you had a bad past or self doubts. She was also Canadian, and I didn't have many Canadian book heroes to admire.
Violet and Klaus Baudelaire
The Baudelaire siblings of A Series of Unfortunate Events each brought their own admirable qualities to the table. Violet showed me that girls could be just as good inventors as anyone else. Klaus showed me that book smarts could get you where you needed to go. Both of them showed me that no matter how bad things get, you can still persevere.
Sailor Moon and Sailor Mercury
Sailor Moon and Sailor Mercury each showed me different ends of a spectrum that often persisted in my brain. Sailor Moon showed me that as long as you could put aside your fears, and fight evil with a brave face, you could triumph even if you weren't the most athletic or studious person. Sailor Mercury showed me that you could put your smarts in to help fight that evil.
Elizabeth Swan of Pirates of the Caribbean left me with a lot to consider and admire. She got involved with the thing that fascinated her (pirates), used her knowledge to her benefit, was brave in the face of danger, and proved to me that a woman could get just as involved in the action and adventure as any man could.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Sixty-Eight. Seven days of leave taken total.)
|Sometimes when you're reading along, you'll find words that you aren't sure you've ever actually seen before. I like to think I have a fairly sizable vocabulary, but I do still find this happening to me on occasion, particularly if I read an older book that might have the occasional antiquated word. I thought I would pull together a list of words people might be less than familiar with, and share some definitions. It's never too late to expand your vocabulary.
Note: I have used the definitions that are provided on google for the sake of simplicity.
make (something bad or unsatisfactory) better.
(of a person or action) showing dedication and diligence.
the killing of one's wife.
persuade (someone) to do something by means of deception or flattery.
the interpretation of dreams in order to foretell the future.
formal / humorous
relating to dancing.
formal / humorous
dark; shadowy or obscure.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Sixty-Seven. Seven days of leave taken total.)
|In my previous entries "The Best Graphic Novels I've Read So Far This Year" and "The Best Non-Fiction I've Read So Far This Year" , I discussed some of the books I've rated at five stars this year so far. I was going to create another entry for novels, but it occurred to me that most of the great novels I've read this year have been four stars. The other things I have rated at five stars actually offer a little variety. I have a poetry volume, a middle-grade novel, and a classic short story. So here are the remainder of the five star ratings (although I am sure I will have more to say about this year's fiction reads by the end of the year).
By Alex Gino
George is a very sweet middle grade novel that focuses on George as she realises that she is really a girl. It deals with trans issues in a way that is easily understood by readers of any age, but it's especially child friendly. It deals with George's struggles of being perceived as a boy when she knows she's a girl, and it is presented in a way that makes her easy to relate to, even if you're not trans. It's an easy read that is touching for all readers, educational for cisgender readers, and vital for transgender children.
October Mourning: A Song For Matthew Shepard
By Lesléa Newman
October Mourning is a poetry volume about Matthew Shepard's violent death in the late nineties. Shepard's death was a brutal hate crime because he was gay, and the poems examine Shepard, his friends, his surroundings. There are poems from the perspective of nearly everyone and everything that had to do with his murder, including everything from the perpetrators to the fence he was left to die on. The poems are absolutely heart-wrenching, and recommended for anyone teenage and up.
By Shirley Jackson
The Lottery is an absolute classic as far as short stories go, and one that I took far too long to get to. Essentially it tells the story of a town that engages in an annual lottery in which the "winner" has some rather unsavoury outcomes. The writing is filled with an ominous tension that works flawlessly with the story. Although it is short, it packs a punch, and the twist end is the exact kind that makes a short story worth reading. The Lottery is a blast and I recommend it for any casual reader, but I also recommend it for those who write short stories.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Sixty-Six. Seven days of leave taken total.)
|I've read more this year than I have managed in the past few years, so I've managed to find a few reads so far that I have rated five stars. I already wrote of "The Best Graphic Novels I've Read So Far This Year" , and so now we're moving on to the best non-fiction I've read this year. A couple of them are releases from the last couple years, but most of them are slightly aged. Regardless of date of release, I consider all of these to be worth five stars.
By Elie Wiesel
Night is Elie Wiesel's famous memoir of his time during the Holocaust, including the time leading up to it and the time he spent in a death camp. Poignant is an easy word to use to describe the book, but it somehow fails to do it justice. Night reaffirms everything I believe about human rights, and leaves me fearing for the future and crying for the past.
Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood
By bell hooks
Bone Black serves as bell hooks' memoir of her childhood. Every chapter equals three pages, with her story simultaneously being disjointed and cohesive. It essentially serves as a literary quilt, filled with snapshots of memories, and shows some of the path that hooks took to become the woman that she is today.
Between the World and Me
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
Between the World and Me is a book length letter that Ta-Nehisi Coates has written to his teenage son. He speaks of his own memories of youth, as well as the current state of affairs in his son's youth. The book examines the entire concept of living as a black man in a white man's world, and the world doesn't come out favourably.
I Came as a Stranger: The Underground Railroad
By Bryan Prince
I Came as a Stranger is a young adult non-fiction book that looks at the complete history of the Underground Railroad, including the history leading up to it. It deals with actual first hand accounts of slaves and slave-owners, and shows the most accurate picture of how the Underground Railroad came to be that I have yet read.
Early London 1826 - 1914: A Photographic History From The Orr Collection
By Jennifer Grainger
When Early London 1826 - 1914 says "early London," it means London, Ontario. Using dozens of historical photographs, this book shows a thorough and fascinating history of the city I reside in. The photographs include people and places, and they are accompanies by detailed explanations that help bring history to life.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Sixty-Five. Seven days of leave taken total.)
|As an avid reader, I tend to consume a lot of any reading material I can get my hands on. This year I have managed to be particularly prolific, and so I thought I might share some of my favourite new finds. Unfortunately most of them have not been new releases, merely new to me, but I thought it might be worth sharing anyway.
Starting off with graphic novels, here are the ones I have rated five stars this year.
Ms Marvel, Vol 1
By G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
Ms Marvel is a reboot of a previous serious, with an all new character as the headlining hero. The previous Ms Marvel is now Captain Marvel, and the new Ms Marvel as Kamala Khan. Kamala is a teenage girl, and daughter to Pakistani immigrants. Her unique background for a superhero gives her a completely new perspective that makes the new Ms Marvel stand out as a hero all her own. The details are also incredibly relatable, including the demands of parents and the perils of a dead phone battery. This is one of my favourite superhero reads from the last few years, and one that I recommend without hesitation.
Monstress, Vol 1
By by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
Monstress is an epic fantasy tale in comic format, featuring fantastic storytelling and some of the best art I've been introduced to in years. Set in a war-ravaged land, the story focuses on Maika Halfwolf, a teenage girl with physical and psychological wounds from the warfare, and powers she can't quite control, as she seeks her vengeance. It's an intricately woven story, with an interesting cast of characters, and enough twists and turns to satisfy any reader. The art is as intricate and unique as the story. This is one of my favourite new series since Saga. I readily recommend this to anyone looking for a fantastic new read, but offer a caution due to the violent content.
By Noelle Stevenson
Nimona is a young adult fantasy that flips the good vs evil dichotomy on its head. Nimona is a shapeshifter with few limitations, including moral ones. She acts as sidekick to the villain Sir Blackheart, as they fight the hero Sir Goldenloin. The hero and the villain have a history that ups the tension, and as the Institution that backs the heroes seems to be going about some shady tasks that the villains must fight against. Nimona is a heartwarming story, but also hilarious, filled with action, and filled with unexpected twists. Another one that I completely recommend (these are my five star reads, after all).
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Sixty-Four. Seven days of leave taken total.)
|Several days ago, I made a blog entry about "Using Non-Fiction As Inspiration For Fiction" . I am a big fan of taking reality, and turning it into a fictional tale. Once I got thinking about it though, I realised that I also get inspired to create non-fiction based upon the fiction I read.
I can't count the number of novels I have read where I noted one particular element or another, and thought about the research behind it. I've found myself looking up real information based on fictional books, movies, and television, and wanting to write about that information. Some of it has been outlandish statements that I was curious to know the truth of, while other instances were details of a story that I wondered about the accuracy of.
Sometimes it's simply a matter of checking to see if the book included any sources, while other times it involves more digging. Of course, if I can't find the information at all, I assume it's fiction. I've read entire non-fiction books, listened to podcasts, read articles online and in magazines, watched youtube videos and documentaries, and so on, all in the search for the truth in a bit of fiction.
When I find that bit of truth, I like to write about it. It can be incredibly educational to piece together enough facts to create an essay, an article, or a blog post explaining the details of something I picked up in a novel. Sometimes it means simplifying something complex. Sometimes it involves creating a list of odd bits of information that might pique someone's interest. It can also mean connecting bits of information that others might not have collected in such a way before.
It can also be incredibly interesting to read a novel and draw your own conclusions based upon a philosophy, belief, etc, and compare that to the world at large. Looking at the minutia in a novel can provide a great deal of insight, and be worth writing about all on its own.
Just as much as you can turn non-fiction into a magnificent story, I think you can also turn a novel into a researched piece of your own writing. Those details could be even then part of the non-fiction details you use for a piece of fiction. Why not be inspired by your own article?
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Sixty-Three. Seven days of leave taken total.)
|As I am sure many of you know, and as I am sure I made apparent in my previous two blog entries, Canada Day is July 1, and this year we celebrated 150 years since confederation. Because it was a full 150, there were some pretty extravagant parties and plans set up to celebrate, so I thought I would share some of what went on locally.
Fireworks were set up across the city. The fireworks in the downtown core were set off over the river, lasted for twenty minutes, and featured twice as many fireworks as it normally would. Every area of fireworks seemed to have its own party tied to it. There was a celebration near my house that had a piano painted up with Canadian symbols that was available for the community to play. Unfortunately the piano seized up much earlier than was anticipated, so they couldn't play it for Canada Day.
The downtown area of my city featured the largest celebrations, which would be what I attended. The party lasted all weekend, with festivities open for four days in a row.. Live music went on at two to three stages throughout the entire weekend, including some moderately well known acts, as well as local bands. There was a local ice cream parlour giving away free cones of ice cream. The line was obscene, but it was well worth the wait (delicious and free is always good in my books).
There was every kind of food and drink, including a beer tent filled with local breweries. I don't really like beer, but I tried a little anyway, and I didn't completely hate it. I definitely had my eye on some of the food, since the entire festival had that tasty food cooking smell to it, but I didn't have much money to spare.
Canada Day also featured some protests due to the number of people that feel Canada Day celebrates 150 years of colonialism. I spoke about some of the issues Canada has in my previous blog entry, "5 Notes on the Darker Side of Canada" , which rank among the things the protesters considered worth protesting.
Overall, it was an interesting day that featured many memorable festivities. It was certainly worth attending for me and my family.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Sixty-Two. Seven days of leave taken total.)
|As I spoke of in "10 Awesome Things About Canada" , Canadians have a lot to be proud of, even on a stripped down level, and we definitely take pride in our nation. However, Canadians, and the rest of the world, like to ignore the darker side of the past and present. We'd prefer to think Canada is flawless rather than admit to the shameful and problematic parts of our history or our current state of affairs.
As I wrote about some great things about Canada for Canada Day, I thought it would be important to highlight some of the not so great things. While Canada Day is certainly a time to celebrate, it's also a time to remember our past, examine our present, and make steps towards a better future.
1. Residential Schools
All across Canada, residential schools existed throughout the twentieth century for indigenous students. Children were taken from their homes and families, and forced to attend schools where they were physically, emotionally, psychologically, and sexually abused by staff. They were forced to abandon their native culture and language. The last federally run residential school did not close until 1996. Canada's government has offered official apologies for the atrocity that was the residential schools, but it certainly feels like too little too late when survivors still struggle with PTSD and the loss of their culture.
While slavery did not occur in Canada following confederation, or even in the few years leading up to it, slavery was a problem in Canada prior to slavery becoming illegal throughout the British Empire. When slavery was legal, many Canadians owned aboriginal and black slaves. There even existed a system for slaves to escape to northern states in the USA where slavery was already outlawed. While this did occur decades prior to confederation, it is a part of Canadian history that even many Canadians are not aware of. Canadians tend to focus on the later portion of Canadian history, when the Underground Railroad led slaves to freedom. Although slaves were freed in Canada, they did face racism and hardships that made their lives more difficult by far than that of white people.
3. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
Indigenous women are nearly three times as likely as non-indigenous women to be victims of violent crime, not including spousal abuse. They are also nearly three times as likely to have a stranger attack them as a non-aboriginal woman would. There are 582 known cases of missing or murdered indigenous women that remain unsolved. The Highway of Tears refers to a highway through western Canada where approximately 19 aboriginal women have vanished or been murdered. The government launched a national inquiry into these murders and disappearings in 2016, but no news has come of this.
4. Indigenous Genocide
In early Canadian history, many massacres were committed against the aboriginal populations of Canada. Bounties were placed upon the literal scalps of aboriginals. Treaties placed them on land that was poorer than the land that non-aboriginals were to receive, land that would make it more difficult for them to hunt and farm. Treaty lands also forced many First Nations tribes to abandon the nomadic lifestyle that was a part of their culture. First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples were not even considered to be citizens of the country they resided in. Residential schools ripped children from their families, and forces them to abandon their languages and cultural traditions, while committing horrible abuses on them. Even when the residential schools were closed, indigenous children were still ripped away from their families and put into foster care, with nearly half of the children in foster care in 2011 being aboriginal.
Disabled Canadians were seen as burdens, and did not receive the same rights, freedoms, and protections as able-bodied Canadians until the end of the 1970s. For nearly fifty years in the twentieth century, disabled Canadians (typically with mental health disabilities) were often forcibly sterilised against their will, sometimes without knowledge of what was happening at all. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Employment Equity Act, and the Canadian Human Rights Act all help to protect Canadians with disabilities now, but this was not always the case. There is still no federal protections available for disabled people specifically; these regulations exist only on a provincial level. Employment inequality still exists for disabled Canadians, with a higher unemployment rate, and a lower average income, as well as the decreased percentage of university educated people.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Sixty-One. Seven days of leave taken total.)
|July 1 is Canada Day. 2017 specifically marks Canada's 150th year since confederation. Canada is quite proud of itself, and here in Canada we have set up quite the celebrations, even including year long promotions for national parks and historic sites. Tonight I attended a free concert in my city (Fefe Dobson, for the curious parties), and there are all sorts of free events to attend throughout the entire weekend.
I thought I would mark my own celebrations by listing off some things that are really great about Canada.
1. Marriage Equality
We've had marriage equality on a national scale for twelve years! Canada was the first non-European country to make marriage equality a reality, and the fourth country overall in the world.
Seriously, if you haven't had poutine you're missing out. Fries, gravy, poutine. You can add other toppings too, but as long as you have the essentials, you're set for a delicious time.
3. The Music Scene
Canadian music is some of the best music in the world. I especially think our 1990s alternative rock music was some of the best available. It helps that Canadian bands actually tour Canada, so there's an actual chance of Canadians being treated to a concert.
We have butter tarts and nanaimo bars, both of which are two of the best sweets to ever grace my tongue. I could eat a tub of butter tart filling and die a happy woman (probably from eating a tub of butter tart filling). Don't forget all the maple flavoured candy.
We did it first. We do it best. American teams win with Canadian players. This is an area of national pride I refuse to bend on, despite hardly being able to skate. I still remember the winning goal in the gold medal game of the 2010 Olympics held on Canadian soil.
6. The Underground Railroad
One of the most significant things in Canadian history prior to confederation was the Underground Railroad. Canada served as a safe haven for thousands of slaves to escape to freedom.
7. WWI Successes
Some of the most significant Canadian Corps successes were during the first world war, and some of the most significant WWI successes were made by the Canadian Corps. This year is also the one hundred year anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which Canada won due to well planned tactical maneuvers.
8. The Burning of the White House
During the War of 1812, Canadian troops (British at the time) burned Washington, including the White House. I have fond memories of middle school history class, where we listened to entire songs about burning down the White House.
9. The Natural Beauty
The Great Lakes, Niagara Falls, the Rocky Mountains, Banff National Park, Hopewell Rocks, and many more. Being such physically large nation means that there is vast opportunity for beautiful natural scenery, and it is certainly there. You can visit just about any portion of Canada and find something beautiful to see.
Canada in its very nature is multicultural. With a mixture of indigenous, British, and French heritage, Canada was founded on multiple cultures. Both French and English are official languages of the country, although many other languages are spoken. With a long history of welcoming immigrants to the new world, it's no surprise that Canada has a grand mix of all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Sixty. Seven days of leave taken total.)
|Sometimes it can be hard to come up with an idea that feels fresh. You start to feel as if all the good ideas have been taken, and nothing you can think up hasn't already been thought up. So why not acknowledge that sometimes reality is truly stranger than fiction by taking inspiration from things that happened in real life?
I assure you, not everything that has ever happened has been novelised. You can find something in the real world, and you can make that your own thing. The novel I have been working on since NaNoWriMo of this past year was actually loosely inspired by a BBC documentary series that I watched on youtube about Victorian period pharmacies. I was fascinated by the four part mini-series, and it occurred to me that I had never read a novel that had anything to do with a Victorian period pharmacy, and in fact couldn't recall a novel that acknowledged their existence. That was my cue to involve an 1850s pharmacy as part of my novel setting. I actually toyed with different variations on this idea for a couple years before actively putting it to use in a piece of fiction, but I'm pleased with how it's going.
I think a lot of people underestimate the ideas that reality can give us for fiction pieces. Obviously we've all read books and seen movies that were "based on a true story," but my favourite is taking small, shapeless facts, and adapting them into a whole story that hadn't existed before. Obviously there is nothing wrong with basing an entire story on true events; I am simply referring to using facts in a story, rather than a story that is fact.
When I have writer's block, one of my favourite things to do is find something nonfiction to help inspire me. Watching a documentary film or show can provide endless inspiration, but so can reading a nonfiction piece of work. Reading a biography might inspire a character trait for your work in progress. Reading a science book might inspire you to make your character a scientist, or to include a gadget you might not otherwise have thought of using. Current events can obviously inspire stories if all those Law and Order episodes ripped from the headlines are anything to go by. Magazines are an incredible source for small details; you can use products you see in ads, use facts from educational headlines, or learn something new about pop culture that your character might already have known.
There are so many things that can inspire a writer to write something new and creative. I think using nonfiction sources can inspire some of the most creative stories. As someone who uses nonfiction for inspiration, I think there are few things as satisfying as knowing that you put the odd little facts you've accrued through your reading or viewing habits to excellent use, and created a whole idea from that small scrap of information.
(I have committed to blogging daily with Give It 100. This is Day Fifty-Nine. Seven days of leave taken total.)