Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day Two: Hampton Court and the Neverending Quest for Shoes

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After a rough night without much sleep, this morning came much too early for my tastes. I got up around 7:30 A.M. and headed out with Shannon to have breakfast at Ramsey. I had a pear, a bowl of Frosties (Frosted Flakes), and a granola bar. I also got a Kit-Kat bar, which I saved for later (candy for breakfast? My kind of country). Once we'd finished eating, we wandered back to the dorms to head out with the group for an optional field trip to Surrey's Hampton Court, the famous Tudor pleasure palace.

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Since I'd just finished reading a book about the Tudors, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the palace. It was much more impressive than I had imagined. Of course, there were more bedrooms than anything else (Henry VIII was known for his numerous wives and mistresses). Each bedroom was unique, luxurious, and overall impressive. Throughout the palace, I noticed intricate details, ornate frescoes, color coordinating, and an appreciation of fine art. It was beautiful.

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We finished our tour of the grounds, got some delicious ice cream, and made our way toward the train platform. Upon arriving, however, we realized that we were about to miss the train. I barely got my arm in before the doors slid shut and the train chugged away, separating me and several others from the remainder of our group. We waited for the next train and passed the time by chatting, laughing, and getting to know one another. The train finally arrived, and we made it back to Goodge Street in no time at all.

By this point in the day, my feet were destroyed. Having messed them up on Saturday, they've only been getting worse with each extra day of walking. Once I reunited with Shannon and the boys, we took the Tube to Oxford Circus in search of walking shoes for me. Our errands proved fruitless, and I remained convinced that there are no suitable pairs of walking shoes to purchase in the whole of greater London. Maybe we can try tomorrow. I desperately need shoes.

We did, however, have the chance to eat at a local pub called The Jack Horner. I finally got the fish and chips that I'd been dreaming about for months. The food was delicious. We sat down and took our time eating, hanging out, and talking at the pub. The service was just as wonderful as the food. I highly recommend it.

On the way home, we ran by Tesco again and picked up a few items each for the week. I got carrots, grapes, the biggest box of Cheerios I've ever seen, dried strawberries, bottled water, and face wipes for  about £10, or $15. Not bad at all. I wish we had a Tesco!

I spent the remainder of the evening cleaning my room, searching for my lost earring (still missing), and preparing everything for tomorrow morning. Classes are starting, which means I'm going to have to buckle down a bit. I have film studies tomorrow from 9:00-11:30AM and world civilizations from 1:00-3:30PM. Is it weird that I'm excited?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day One: Self-Guided Walking Tour, Pizza, and Cabin in the Woods

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I bought a journal to use exclusively for this trip, but I type so much faster than I write. It might be easier for me to write a blog entry for each day rather than a journal entry. At any rate, I want to update my blog every day. Maybe blogging this trip is a fantastic solution.

Today was much more intense than yesterday. Shannon and I went out on a self-guided walking tour all around London. The theme was the BBC TV show Sherlock. We set out with the intention of seeing the sites where the show was filmed.

We started the day with breakfast at Speedy's, the restaurant beside John and Sherlock's flat. I ordered a mocha, a cheese omelette, and some chips, and I was not disappointed. Breakfast was cheap, and the atmosphere was fantastic. There were pictures inspired by Sherlock all over the restaurant.

After Speedy's, we headed for Trafalgar Square and found ourselves in the middle of a Pride celebration. Everyone was fun and friendly, and Shannon and I got free paper crowns. We also had the chance to take some touristy pictures, including some of Big Ben, The London Eye, and Parliament. I also got the obligatory photo in front of a red phone booth.

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We went to the South Bank and a few other Sherlock-related sites, including St. Bartholomew's Hospital (or St. Bart's, if you like), where Sherlock had his infamous "fall." We experienced a great deal of emotions. While almost getting run over by a double decker bus, Shannon and I met a woman named Ruth. She took us around the back of St. Bart's to see where the Sherlock filming crew had filmed the final conversation between Jim and Sherlock. Ruth had been lucky enough to even meet Mark Gatiss and Benedict Cumberbatch! She was a wonderful woman.

We said goodbye to Ruth after several minutes of chatting as well as taking pictures. Shannon and I, exhausted from walking, headed for the Underground. At first, we were apprehensive about taking the Tube, but once we figured out the map, we were feeling much better. We tapped in with our Oyster cards, headed downstairs, and got on the train. It wasn't crowded, and we only had to stay on for one stop. We had lunch at Burger King (yeah, I know), hopped on the Tube again (much more crowded this time), and went back to the college.

Once back, I took a shower, called my parents, and killed some time before heading over to see what Shannon wanted to do. We were initially set on meeting up with some people, but after a failure in communication (oh, Europe and its difficulties), ended up making a Tesco run and coming back to the dorm for pizza and Cabin in the Woods. Honestly, though, it was not a bad evening.

Tomorrow morning, we're all going as a group to see the Tudor estate, Hampton Court. Is it weird that I'm excited? I did just read a book on Tudor pregnancies, after all. Anyway, I think I'm going to call it a night. I cannot wait to see what tomorrow has in store.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

London Calling

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London calling, yes, I was there, too.


An' you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!



I've been wanting to go to London since I was thirteen. After eight long years of waiting, I finally have the chance. Tomorrow evening, I'll be boarding a plane destined for the United Kingdom. I can hardly believe it.


This trip is going to be all about new experiences. I want to eat, drink, do, and see things that I never have before. I've even made a list! (Maybe one day I'll share it.) I can't wait to see what this trip has in store.


I am a little nervous about being abroad. I'm going to be with people I've never met, and I tend to feel awkward when meeting new people. I'm sure I have nothing to worry about. I know everyone else is nervous about making friends, but I can't shake my anxiety.


Maybe a good night's sleep will help. This time tomorrow, I'll be up in the air!


What should I make sure to do in London? What all do you recommend?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Branching Out

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I started this blog because I wanted to document my life while interacting with other people. So far, the only goal I've accomplished is interacting with other people. I wondered if I should branch out with my blog... cover more topics, including personal life stuff. After all, life is short, and sometimes it feels good to get a few things off my chest.

Some exciting things are happening in my life right now:

  • studying abroad in London

  • applying for jobs and internships

  • becoming a cell group leader

  • writing professionally

  • and a great deal more


I'd like to share this stuff with you.

Anyway, I guess I'm going to write a new post every day. While the subject matter may vary, I can promise you that each post will be most definitely "me." You can share it my failures, successes, and life lessons as I experience them along the way. Hopefully you might even learn a thing or two.

What topics would you like to see covered on this blog?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Interview: Allison Blanchard, Author of Forget Me Not

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I heard about Allison Blanchard from one of her sorority sisters. "There's this girl in my sorority who writes," she'd told me. "She just published her first book. You need to get in touch with her."

Just like that, I shot off an email. I began talking to Allison and discovered, in no time at all, that she is one of the sweetest and most down-to-earth young women I've ever met. Allison attends a liberal arts college as a double major in French and creative writing. Four years ago, she started writing a book. On April 6, 2012, Allison's book got published. Her debut novel, Forget Me Not, is a young adult paranormal romance that is difficult to put down.

Recently, I interviewed Allison for this blog. I wanted to know all about her process, what writing means to her, and how she uses her writing to glorify God. Warning: this interview may cause you to fall in love with Allison.

B: What made you decide that you wanted to become a writer?

A: I was eleven when I had finally realized the answer to the dreaded question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I decided being a writer was what was going to make me happy and fulfilled. It was after I had read a series of books by my favorite author, Marianne Curley. She is an Australian young adult novelist whose books helped me through a dark time in my life. I am forever grateful to her because without her books, I don’t think I would have ever written one word of fiction.

B: Describe your writing process. How often do you write? Do you outline? How do you stay organized? Do you have a target word count?

A: I try to write every day, but things often come up or I get distracted, especially when I am in school. But several times a week, at least. I outline very little, but I find with a trilogy it is needed to make sure I don’t forget certain subplots that need to be resolved by the final book. However, I don’t like to be too detail oriented with my outlines. I like the writing process to be more organic. I like being shocked and surprised when a character does something completely different or not what I was expecting. That’s what I love about writing – being able to see how my characters change and grow and become their own people.

I usually try to stay organized by writing out ideas as they come to me. Basic plot points and different character motivations are written out as the ideas are born. I don’t usually have a word count, but a typical novel that a publisher will publish is 60,000 to 100,000 words. Usually, I keep my books around 75,000 – 85,000. I try to hit a certain word count each time I write, but now I tend to just say to myself, “Let’s write this scene out and see how long it goes.” Like I said before, it’s very organic.

B: How do you react when someone tells you that they've read your book?

A: I have a minor panic/happy attack inside – usually I’m dancing in my head, but try to remain calm. It is still really surreal to think that people are reading my book. Like right now. People I don’t know. It’s super humbling.

B: Is the relationship between Cole and Adeline based on a real romantic relationship? If so, which one? If not, where did the dynamic come from?

A: If Cole and Adeline’s romantic relationship was based on something in my own life, I’d be living it, not writing it. Haha! No, this relationship is fictional and comes from my brain. As a writer, I do put a little bit of myself into all of my characters. I honestly find myself more like Cole than Adeline, which a lot of people don’t expect. The dynamic, again, sort of wrote itself. Both characters are shy, but Adeline is way more insecure. Cole is embarrassed by his family (like most teenagers), but the two of them find a lot of common ground. I think that’s why they are drawn to each other. They’ve finally met someone who understands them.

B: What are your top five favorite books?

 A: Ah! What a tough question! But here are my top five favorite books!

"Old Magic" by Marianne Curley 

I think most people know about my unhealthy obsession for this author and her work, but she of course made it to the top of my list. I absolutely adore this novel. It is a young adult paranormal romance that deals with time travel and history. It is so good in every way. If you haven't read it, then you are missing out. Go buy it now. No, but really. Do it.

"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen 

I am a hardcore Austen fan and I am not ashamed. I love everything about this book and often reread again and again. Austen does a romance justice and I aspire to be like her. Oh, Jane. If only you were alive today for me stalk.

"A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini 

Oh. My. Gosh. This novel literally punched me in the face. It was so good. No, but really. This book is insanely well written that I laughed, cried, laughed again, and cried even more. If you haven't read this beautiful book, then you haven't lived life.

“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte

I love both of the Bronte sisters, but this novel is one of my absolute favorites. It is so beautiful and tragic. It is one of those novels I can read again and again. LOVE!

"Redeeming Love" by Francine Rivers 

I think it's clear that I love Jesus and therefore would like to fall in love with a man who does too. This romance novel showed me that it is possible. Francine Rivers' words and truth of the Gospel changed my perception of true love and what it is all about. I cried throughout this novel, loving the characters and seeing myself in them. This book is a must read for any follower of Christ who is looking for a man to lead her closer to God. Although it is fiction this love story will ignite of flame to know Christ more intimately so that you will be able to perceive the right man from the wrong man. LOVE. THIS. BOOK.

B: What websites or resources have been the most helpful for you as a writer?

A: Writersmarket.com was absolutely HUGE in my quest to find a publisher. I paid a small fee each month to gain access to contact information to literary agents and publishers. That and reading. If you want to be a serious writer, then you need to be a serious reader. Read anything and everything. It will help you grow as a writer and learn what you like to read, which more than likely will be what you love to write. 

B: What would you like to do after graduating from college?

A: I would love to continue writing and also become an editor in a publishing company. Since being published, I have really fallen in love with the process. I would love to help an author see his or her work go from the computer to the hands of a fan.

B: How do you feel Christian writers can use their gifts to glorify God, as you have with your writing?

A: I think Christian writers need to remember why/how they write. Because God has given you the gift and talent to write. I always pray before/during the writing process. I want my work to glorify Him and I want Him to lead me in what I am supposed to write. Therefore, I would encourage other Christian writers to continue to lean on Him, trust Him, and write to glorify Him.

B: What was the most difficult part of the publication process?

A: Getting someone who would actually read the full manuscript. Many would only ask for a few chapters or only 75 pages and make a decision based on those pages alone. I was always thrilled whenever someone asked to read the full manuscript. And even more excited when someone actually sent me a contract!

B: If you go back to before writing Forget Me Not, what kind of advice would you give yourself about writing, publication, or the process as a whole?

A: To trust God and this process, no matter how long it takes. Don’t freak out or get discouraged when someone says no. Like my mom constantly told me, you don’t need a 100 yeses, you need only one. And that one yes will come. 

As you can see, Allison Blanchard is a wonderful woman with a passion for writing and also for God. If you'd like to learn more about her, check out her blog. Her first novel, Forget Me Not, is available through Amazon.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Guest Post: Lamar Hull from Direct4TV

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Writing tips for student athletes: Applying athletic principles to your writing

Being a college student athlete is tough. You've got to spend long hours practicing and, most importantly, you've got to learn to balance your time between school work and your sport. You may be set on continuing your sports career after college, but we all know sometimes things don't work out as planned, and that's why your college classwork is especially important. For a college athlete, building good writing skills can be nearly as vital as crafting your athletic ability.

Fortunately, learning writing skills isn't as hard as you may think – you can even apply some of the same principles from sports to your writing experience. Whether you're just trying to do well in school or you want to start writing your own novel, these tips can help make you a better writer.

Plan

Just like you'd plan goals for training, you can plan goals for schoolwork. Perhaps you could set a goal for a GPA you want to earn, a grade on a research paper or a word count for your personal writing. If you play on a team at school, you probably have set training and practice times. It's good to also plan out set times to do work and write every day. If you set time to devote to writing, you'll get in the groove of sitting down with your computer to write, and it will become a daily habit. And with more planning comes plenty of practice!

Practice daily

You've probably heard it a million times, but practicing is crucial for improvement. You wouldn't go a week without training, so don't go a week without writing. Try to write daily to better yourself and your skill. The more you write, the better you'll get – just like how running through more basketball or football drills can help you become a better player. Do you play a couple different sports? Try different types of writing, too. Become a well-rounded writer and athlete with plenty of practice!

Accept criticism and improve on it

No one is perfect, and you don't need to try to be. Improvement is a continual process, and you can't expect to magically become a better writer or athlete. You have to learn to take your criticism gracefully. Don't let things get you down – whether you don't play as well as you'd like in a big game or you don't get the high grade you wanted. It's important to keep trying and to work hard to keep getting better.

Even if you're not a student athlete, you can use these tips to improve your own writing skills. With some hard work, you can become a great writer, too!

Author: Lamar Hull is a former Davidson College student-athlete who loves to provide advice to college students and college graduates. Lamar currently writes for Direct4tv. You can follow Lamar @lamarhull20 and his youth basketball blog.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Top 10 Writing Soundtracks

Top 10 Writing Soundtracks

In one of my recent posts, I talked about the connection between writing and music. It goes without saying that listening to music is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. I love listening to music while I write. Lately, however, I've discovered that music with lyrics is too distracting. I've dismissed lyrical melodies in favor of movie soundtracks.

In my search to find the perfect background noise for my muse to work, I've stumbled upon the top 10 best soundtracks to listen to while writing. Listening to these soundtracks while you work will help you focus without distracting you.

  1. The Dark Knight (sweeping, mysterious, and epic)
  2. Atonement (emotional and romantic)
  3. Pride & Prejudice (sweet and soulful)
  4. Wall-E (bright and bold)
  5. The Return of the King (triumphant and multifaceted)
  6. Edward Scissorhands (whimsical and offbeat)
  7. Pearl Harbor (heroic and visceral)
  8. Requiem for a Dream (surreal and unsettling)
  9. Forrest Gump (all-encompassing)
  10. Pirates of the Caribbean (fast-paced and dramatic)

If you're looking for something to listen to while working, look no further than these ten soundtracks. This ambient music will enhance your concentration without overwhelming you. And if you want to listen to these soundtracks without dumping your money off at iTunes, check out Pandora and Grooveshark, where you can listen to them for free.

What do you listen to when you write? Feel free to share your playlists!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Kurosawa Guide to Daily Writing

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You don’t have time to finish your book.

Sure, when you started out, you imagined endless hours dedicated solely to banging away on your keyboard, producing The Next International Bestselling Novel. Now that reality has set in, however, you’re realizing that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. Between work, family, and social obligations, how can you be expected to find a minute of free time?

As writers, it’s important for us to write every day. The business of everyday life outside of writing can make it difficult to schedule time to get some serious writing done. You know you should be working on something, but you don’t feel like you have time to make any real progress. By utilizing the Kurosawa Method, you can finish your current project, no matter how little time you think you have.

The Kurosawa Method was developed by world-renowned writer and director Akira Kurosawa. He came up with a strategy for writing every day, no matter what. No matter how busy he was, he made a commitment to get down at least one page every day. One page is better than no pages, after all. This method works wonders. It’s easier to put your butt in the chair with such a small goal, and one page often turns into two, three, or ten before you know it.

Writing just one page per day is the ideal strategy for finishing your current project while juggling a busy schedule. All you have to commit to is a single page per day. If you write more, great; if not, that's fine, too. Writing a single page per day leaves you with 365 pages at the end of the year, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
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