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By Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade
No, the image to the left is not a newly discovered picture of Jane Austen. The image was taken from my copy of The Complete Letter Writer, published in 1840, well after Jane Austen’s death in 1817. But letter writing manuals were popular throughout Jane Austen’s lifetime, and the text of my copy is very similar to that of much earlier editions of the book, published from the mid-1750s on. It is possible then that Jane Austen might have had access to one. Letter writing manuals contained “familiar letters on the most common occasions in life”, and showed examples of what a letter might look like to people who needed to learn the art of letter writing. The Complete Letter Writer also contains an English grammar, with rules of spelling, a list of punctuation marks and an account of the eight parts of speech. If Jane Austen had possessed a copy, she might have had access to this feature as well.
But I doubt if she did. Her father owned an extensive library, and Austen was an avid reader. But in genteel families such as hers letter writing skills were usually handed down within the family. “I have now attained the true art of letter-writing, which we are always told, is to express on paper what one would say to the same person by word of mouth,” Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra on 3 January 1801, adding, “I have been talking to you almost as fast as I could the whole of this letter.” But I don’t think George Austen’s library contained any English grammars either. He did teach boys at home, to prepare them for further education, but he taught them Latin, not English.
So Jane Austen didn’t learn to write from a book; she learnt to write just by practicing, from a very early age on. Her Juvenilia, a fascinating collection of stories and tales she wrote from around the age of twelve onward, have survived, in her own hand, as evidence of how she developed into an author. Her letters, too, illustrate this. She is believed to have written some 3,000 letters, only about 160 of which have survived, most of them addressed to Cassandra. The first letter that has come down to us reads a little awkwardly: it has no opening formula, contains flat adverbs – “We were so terrible good as to take James in our carriage”, which she would later employ to characterize her so-called “vulgar” characters – and even has an unusual conclusion: “yours ever J.A.”. Could this have been her first letter?
Cassandra wasn’t the only one she corresponded with. There are letters to her brothers, to friends, to her nieces and nephews as well as to her publishers and some of her literary admirers, with whom she slowly developed a slightly more intimate relationship. There is even a letter to Charles Haden, the handsome apothecary who she is believed to have been in love with. Her unusual ending, “Good bye”, suggests a kind of flirting on paper. The language of the letters shows how she varied her style depending on who she was writing to. She would use the word fun, considered a “low” word at the time, only to the younger generation of Austens. Jane Austen loved linguistic jokes, as shown by the reverse letter to her niece Cassandra Esten: “Ym raed Yssac, I hsiw uoy a yppah wen raey”, and she recorded her little nephew George’s inability to pronounce his own name: “I flatter myself that itty Dordy will not forget me at least under a week”.
It’s easy to see how the letters are a linguistic goldmine. They show us how she loved to talk to relatives and friends and how much she missed her sister when they were apart. They show us how she, like most people in those days, depended on the post for news about friends and family, how a new day wasn’t complete without the arrival of a letter. At a linguistic level, the letters show us a careful speller, even if she had different spelling preferences from what was general practice at the time, and someone who was able to adapt her language, word use and grammar alike, to the addressee.
All her writing, letters as well as her fiction, was done at a writing desk, just like the one on the table on the image from the Complete Letter Writer, and just like my own. A present from her father on her nineteenth birthday, the desk, along with the letters written upon it, is on display as one of the “Treasures of the British Library”. The portable desk traveled with her wherever she went. “It was discovered that my writing and dressing boxes had been by accident put into a chaise which was just packing off as we came in,” she wrote on 24 October 1798. A near disaster, for “in my writing-box was all my worldly wealth, 7l”.
Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade has a chair in English Sociohistorical Linguistics at the University of Leiden Centre for Linguistics (Leiden, The Netherlands). Her most recent books include In Search of Jane Austen: The Language of the Letters, The Bishop’s Grammar: Robert Lowth and the Rise of Prescriptivism, and An Introduction to Late Modern English. She is currently the director of the research project “Bridging the Unbridgeable: Linguists, Prescriptivists and the General Public”.
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Image credits: (1) Image of Jane Austen from The Complete Letter Writer, public domain via Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade (2) Photo of writing desk, Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade.
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It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
Is Pride and Prejudice your favorite Jane Austen novel? Why or why not?
I must admit that Pride and Prejudice is not my favorite, favorite Austen. I almost like that it is not my favorite book by Austen. But. No matter how much I say it isn't my favorite, every single time I reread this one, I am surprised by how satisfying and lovely it really is. It is so incredibly familiar, and I think that is part of the charm. The dialogue is so familiar, the characters feel like old friends, you can't help getting swept up into the story, the romance once again. The movies probably have more than a little to do with that. Do you have a favorite adaptation?
There are so many characters to love, so many characters to love to hate. Do you have a favorite? Elizabeth is not my favorite Austen heroine, but, she is probably among my favorites from Pride and Prejudice. I love her relationships: seeing Elizabeth with Jane, seeing Elizabeth with Charlotte, seeing Elizabeth with Lady Catherine, seeing Elizabeth with Darcy!
Like most Austen novels, the more attention you pay to the little details, the more you'll be rewarded! That is why rereading is oh-so-essential.
His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and everybody hoped that he would never come there again. Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by his having slighted one of her daughters. Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of gentlemen, to sit down for two dances; and during part of that time, Mr. Darcy had been standing near enough for her to hear a conversation between him and Mr. Bingley, who came from the dance for a few minutes, to press his friend to join it. “Come, Darcy,” said he, “I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.”
“I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.” “I would not be so fastidious as you are,” cried Mr. Bingley, “for a kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty.” “You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room,” said Mr. Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet. “Oh! She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.” “Which do you mean?” and turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said: “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.” Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings toward him.
“My dear Miss Eliza, why are you not dancing? Mr. Darcy, you must allow me to present this young lady to you as a very desirable partner. You cannot refuse to dance, I am sure when so much beauty is before you.” And, taking her hand, he would have given it to Mr. Darcy who, though extremely surprised, was not unwilling to receive it, when she instantly drew back, and said with some discomposure to Sir William: “Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing. I entreat you not to suppose that I moved this way in order to beg for a partner.” Mr. Darcy, with grave propriety, requested to be allowed the honour of her hand, but in vain. Elizabeth was determined; nor did Sir William at all shake her purpose by his attempt at persuasion. “You excel so much in the dance, Miss Eliza, that it is cruel to deny me the happiness of seeing you; and though this gentleman dislikes the amusement in general, he can have no objection, I am sure, to oblige us for one half-hour.” “Mr. Darcy is all politeness,” said Elizabeth, smiling. “He is, indeed; but, considering the inducement, my dear Miss Eliza, we cannot wonder at his complaisance — for who would object to such a partner?” Elizabeth looked archly, and turned away. Her resistance had not injured her with the gentleman, and he was thinking of her with some complacency, when thus accosted by Miss Bingley: “I can guess the subject of your reverie.” “I should imagine not.” My mind was more agreeably engaged. I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.”
“It is a rule with me, that a person who can write a long letter with ease, cannot write ill.” “That will not do for a compliment to Darcy, Caroline,” cried her brother, “because he does not write with ease. He studies too much for words of four syllables. Do not you, Darcy?” “My style of writing is very different from yours.” “Oh!” cried Miss Bingley, “Charles writes in the most careless way imaginable. He leaves out half his words, and blots the rest.” “My ideas flow so rapidly that I have not time to express them — by which means my letters sometimes convey no ideas at all to my correspondents.” “Your humility, Mr. Bingley,” said Elizabeth, “must disarm reproof.” “Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.” “And which of the two do you call my little recent piece of modesty?” “The indirect boast; for you are really proud of your defects in writing, because you consider them as proceeding from a rapidity of thought and carelessness of execution, which, if not estimable, you think at least highly interesting. The power of doing anything with quickness is always prized much by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance.
“Miss Eliza Bennet, let me persuade you to follow my example, and take a turn about the room. I assure you it is very refreshing after sitting so long in one attitude.” Elizabeth was surprised, but agreed to it immediately. Miss Bingley succeeded no less in the real object of her civility; Mr. Darcy looked up. He was as much awake to the novelty of attention in that quarter as Elizabeth herself could be, and unconsciously closed his book. He was directly invited to join their party, but he declined it, observing that he could imagine but two motives for their choosing to walk up and down the room together, with either of which motives his joining them would interfere. “What could he mean? She was dying to know what could be his meaning?” — and asked Elizabeth whether she could at all understand him? “Not at all,” was her answer; “but depend upon it, he means to be severe on us, and our surest way of disappointing him will be to ask nothing about it.” Miss Bingley, however, was incapable of disappointing Mr. Darcy in anything, and persevered therefore in requiring an explanation of his two motives. “I have not the smallest objection to explaining them,” said he, as soon as she allowed him to speak. “You either choose this method of passing the evening because you are in each other’s confidence, and have secret affairs to discuss, or because you are conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking; if the first, I would be completely in your way, and if the second, I can admire you much better as I sit by the fire.” “Oh! shocking!” cried Miss Bingley. “I never heard anything so abominable. How shall we punish him for such a speech?” “Nothing so easy, if you have but the inclination,” said Elizabeth. “We can all plague and punish one another. Tease him — laugh at him. Intimate as you are, you must know how it is to be done.”
It is happy for you that you possess the talent of flattering with delicacy. May I ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous study?” “They arise chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments as may be adapted to ordinary occasions, I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible.” Mr. Bennet’s expectations were fully answered. His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute composure of countenance, and, except in an occasional glance at Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure.
When those dances were over, she returned to Charlotte Lucas, and was in conversation with her, when she found herself suddenly addressed by Mr. Darcy who took her so much by surprise in his application for her hand, that, without knowing what she did, she accepted him. He walked away again immediately, and she was left to fret over her own want of presence of mind; Charlotte tried to console her: “I dare say you will find him very agreeable.” “Heaven forbid! That would be the greatest misfortune of all! To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! Do not wish me such an evil.”I must stop quoting now! I have a feeling that they could get out of control!
My first review September 2007
My second review December 2011
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews Add a Comment
The Annual Tales of Terror is here!
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Spring seems to have found us here in Georgia this weekend. While it is a simple fact that God smiles on The South sooner than the northern regions, I hold no illusions that spring is here for good. But yesterday found me in shorts cleaning up the yard. We live on a couple of wooded acres and green is beginning to peek through the gloomy brown – in my neighbor’s yard. I however was cursed with a dreaded black thumb. I follow some photography blogs displaying the most beautiful flowers from tropical locations, so I thought I would give you my best effort.
These are my gardenias. Are implies a current state of being, so I suppose I should say these were my gardenias. I don’t know what happened to them, they just shriveled up and turned brown like everything else I put in the ground. Our once vibrant hydrangeas look more like flaking twigs than actual plants. My grass – brown in every season unless you include moss and weeds. Every time I go to the orange store, I tell my friend Lou the dilemma and he recommends a plant that can’t be killed. I used to take them back with their return policy, but I’ve become embarrassed to do so anymore.
You know how God builds a perfect union from two dissimilar parts? One member of the marriage might be outgoing and the other shy, or one might be cognitive while the other is emotional. Then they join together like pieces of a puzzle and complete each other perfectly (sorry for the cheesy Jerry Maguire reference, but while I’m at it, enjoy…)
In a cruel twist of fate for botanists everywhere, my lovely bride has a matching black thumb. Potted plants seem to be a popular thank you gift here and she’s received a number of them over the years. All we have left is a bunch of pots filled with what I call soil of death. She kills indoor plants while I slay the jungle outside. Nothing is safe in our homestead. Thank you, God that we have a supermarket and don’t rely on subsistence farming. We’d all starve for sure.
So while my friends up north are mired in snow, we are seeing the sun in our little slice of heaven. Maybe it likes us because we don’t need it for photosynthesis. I don’t know, I just like wearing shorts again.
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Shamus Award-winning author John Straley returns with another mystery set in the Southeast Alaska region he calls home with the delightful and witty "Cold Storage, Alaska." Straley, an investigator for the public defender's office who lives in Sitka, is widely known for his Cecil Younger series which includes "The Woman Who Married the Bear" and "The Curious Eat Themselves." His new novel is funnier but no less spot-on with its depictions of the colorful characters who populate the small, isolated town of Cold Storage.
(Did I just write "colorful"? Please forgive me. I need to turn in my proof of Alaska residency right now before a reality TV producer calls and asks if I can recommend anyone for a new show.)
The plot is straightforward: Former bad boy Clive McCahon is on his way home to Cold Storage after serving seven years in prison Outside for dealing cocaine. He smartly put some money away before his arrest and now recovers it, believing that by keeping his mouth shut and protecting his employers he has earned some goodwill. Along with newly acquired former guard dog "Little Brother," he sews his cash into his new parka and heads north.
Once Clive reaches Juneau, Straley starts to have a lot of fun with the Alaska way of life. Consider how he describes the flight out of Juneau in a de Havilland Beaver, which begins with the words no passenger ever wants to hear: "We're going to give a try!" After stopping in Pelican, where the pilot unwisely chooses to take on a salmon wrapped in a garbage bag and shoves it under his seat, things take a bit of a negative turn. It should be noted that Little Brother is not in an FAA-approved kennel, because, well, if you've flown in Alaska then you know why:
"Is there a problem?" Tommy yelled over his shoulder.
A rocky ridgeline lay a few hundred feet below them.
"Just a few more minutes and we'll be down," Tommy said. "Can you keep control of that dog?"
"We're doing fine," Clive called. "We're having the time of our lives!"
He tried to wrap his new coat up around Little Brother's shoulders but the dog seemed to be growing. He would soon be the size of a buffalo, Clive thought.
Looking over his shoulder, all Tommy could see was a massive rump of brindled dog pushing against the seat. Above the roar of the engine, he could hear deep growling.
"Just a few more minutes," he said in a weak voice.
Clive pulled against Little Brother's collar, but the dog wasn't interested in calming down. He reached back and with his teeth he grabbed the coat from around his shoulders. He began to furiously tear at the parka; feathers and dog slobber flecked against the windscreen.
Tommy started pumping the flaps and leveling off for a landing but hundred dollar bills were floating up over his shoulder and landing in his lap. He pushed the plane down on the water. Feathers and paper money fluttered through the cabin. The dog snarled, Tommy shrieked and Clive closed his eyes.
That is, of course, what we call an uneventful landing in the Last Frontier.
After safely arriving, Clive sets out to reestablish himself with his war-hero brother Miles, now the town's physician's assistant and sole medical representative. In a fit of civic improvement, he also starts working on a new bar/church -- there must be an equal number of bars and churches in the community, per town ordinance. In the meantime, Straley makes his way around Cold Storage, introducing all the regular characters, from the bored -- and randy -- married school teacher to the completely devoid of humor -- and humanity -- Alaska State Trooper and most warmly, the much-beloved young resident whose religious conversion has led him to set off in a kayak for Seattle and a meeting with the visiting Dalai Lama. The fact that his salvation arrives via cruise ship is a stroke of literary genius.
Clive's money ends up causing some problems, and guns and violence arrive in Cold Storage, although even then the laughs keep coming. But what impressed me the most about what Straley has done here is that unlike so many of the ways that Alaskans are portrayed these days, he writes his characters as colorful and idiosyncratic but also kind, smart and deeply moving. Yes, they live in a place that breeds a bit of zaniness -- how could it not, when it rains all the damn time? -- but that doesn't make them something to be mocked. For all that, "Cold Storage, Alaska" is certainly a wild mystery in the vein of Elmore Leonard's "Get Shorty" years or all of Carl Hiaasen, it is just as much an homage to small towns and the people who fill them. What elevates Straley above so much of the competition is how very much he cares about the people and places he writes about. He gives us Alaska with heart, exposing his own deep love for the state in each and every hilarious word.Add a Comment
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Rilla on why she didn’t put away her playdough: “Well, I expected myself to go back and do it, but I didn’t.”Add a Comment
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Helen's Big World:Doreen Rappaport gives readers a clear sense of Helen's whole life, from the illness that left her blind and deaf as a child, to her years with Annie, and then her accomplishments as an adult.
The Life of Helen Keller
by Doreen Rappaport
illustrated by Matt Tavares
Disney / Hyperion, 2012
ages 5 - 9
available at your local library and on Amazon
Throughout it, Rappaport highlights Keller's own inspiring words in large, bold print. Young readers will be inspired not only by how Helen overcame her own disabilities, but how she used her voice to speak up for justice and equality for all.
From the Author’s Note:
I remember when I went to the theater and saw the play The Miracle Worker, which focuses on the early relationship between Helen and her teacher Annie Sullivan. The most electrifying moment in the play, and in the biographies of Helen Keller, was always the moment at the water pump, when Helen connected the water flowing over her hand with the word that Annie was spelling into her other hand.Kids will enjoy checking out the American Foundation for the Blind's Helen Keller Kids' Museum Online, full of pictures and short paragraphs of information.
That moment reminds us of how we learn, and the power of learning; the more we understand things, the larger our world becomes. Annie Sullivan opened up Helen Keller’s limited, dark, silent world; it grew and grew until it truly became a big world.
|AFB's Helen Keller Kids Museum Online|
©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books Add a Comment
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Every Sunday I provide videos and valuable links to the Truth or Tradition teachings. We’ve been following the Truth or Tradition teachings for many years now and they have truly blessed our family. We have found peace and happiness through our beliefs and we walk confidently for God. My hope, by passing on this information to you, is that what you find here, or on the Truth or Tradition website, will guide you to a better, more blessed and abundant life.
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1. Dying solider Tony Block challenges Death to a game of scrabble in order to buy himself a couple more hours of life. But can he convince Death that "garwaf" is a real word?
2. Randy searches for a job where his speech impediment won't be an issue. Emily helps him get a job where she works, at the car wash. Or, as Randy would say it, the Garwaf.
3. After years struggling to make a go of their computer-programming business, Icelandic sextuplets Garwaf, Gafraw, Warfga, Wafrag, Fragwa and Awfgar finally strike it rich by selling their word verification algorithm to Blogger.
4. When the priest sneezes at a crucial point in the christening, Garwaf James Ackerman's destiny is set. While the blessed spittle is soon wiped from his forehead, it causes his death from pneumonia, seventy-three years later.
5. Gabriel has been turned into a wolf by his wife. When he finds himself in the royal court, the king decides to make him his pet. Can Lady Beau help "Garwaf" regain his humanity before he rips her throat out?
6. Hazel is fired from her secretarial job after Word mis-corrects the title of the book her boss is trying to submit to a big-league New York editor.
Dear Benevolent Editor:
How is a man supposed to be a man when he’s trapped in the body of a wolf? [I've struggled with that question all my life--except, for "wolf," substitute "god."] And what is the woman who loves him supposed to do about this rather awkward situation? [I once dated a woman who was trapped in the body of a wolf, and it wasn't awkward at all . . . well, except for the night we went to a dinner party at the home of a couple whose son was trapped in the body of a sheep.] A romantic fantasy/adventure for young adults in the tradition of Robin McKinley and Diana Wynne Jones, GARWAF retells the story of Beauty and the Beast- with a twist.
Gabriel, a werewolf who was once the favorite knight of the king himself, was trapped in his wolf form permanently by his unfaithful wife when she learned his dire secret. [If I'd been unfaithful to my husband, the last thing I would want to do would be to permanently make him a creature capable of turning me into cole slaw.] Ensnared as an animal in the woods, cut off from everyone and everything he ever loved, Gabriel is slowly losing his mind and his memory. By a trick of fate, Gabriel finds himself back in the king’s court. [Trick of fate = whim of author.] Instead of a knight now he is the king’s treasured pet.
[King: I should have a treasured pet.
Trusted Adviser: Yes sire. Dog? Kitten?
King: I was thinking wolfman.]
Entrusted to the charge of the sweet and steadfast Lady Beau, [An oxymoron if I've ever heard one.] Gabriel might, with her help, be able to return to his human form. Old enemies and his own inner demons quickly converge, [How do his old enemies know he's Gabriel, and not an actual wolf?] and Gabriel’s tentative grip on his human half is tested when he almost kills Beau, the one person who is trying to help him.
Opinionated and outspoken, Lady Beau has been packed off to the royal court by her father to snare herself a rich husband. Bored by the petty intrigues of court, Beau’s loneliness and frustration are eased when the king puts her in charge of the care and comfort of his new pet. [In other words, puts her in charge of cleaning out the wolfman's cage.] Beau quickly realizes the beast is more than he seems. Resolving to do all in her power to help him if she can, she is sorely tested as the trials of court and confrontations with the people who betrayed him lead Gabriel to stray ever closer to losing his humanity forever. [This paragraph contains information that's been presented already: Gabriel is the king's pet; he's entrusted to Lady Beau; old enemies are out to get him; he's losing his humanity.]
I did extensive research into the medieval era to help me construct this novel. [Thank you. There's nothing more annoying than finding historical inaccuracies in a wolfman fantasy.] A synopsis, first 50 pages, and SASE for your reply are included. I look forward to sending you the complete, 90K word manuscript. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.
As you declare it a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, you wouldn't be taken to task for calling her Lady Belle.
While it's not a strict contradiction, describing Beau as sweet and steadfast and later calling her opinionated and outspoken may give two different impressions of her.
It might be better organized if it began with Beau, something like:
Lady Beau has been packed off to the royal court by her father to snare herself a rich husband. Bored by the petty intrigues of court, her loneliness and frustration are eased when the king puts her in charge of the care and comfort of his new pet wolf.
Beau quickly realizes the beast is more than he seems, for this "wolf" was once Gabriel, the king's favorite knight. Resolving to do all in her power to restore him, Beau is sorely tested as the trials of court and confrontations with those who betrayed Gabriel lead him to stray ever further from his humanity.
Now there's room to tell us what happens beyond the set-up. And to tell us what the twist is. Does Belle fall for the king instead of the beast in this version?
FRAWGA--Ted Kennedy's favorite video game
GAFWAR--US invasion of Iraq
I've struggled with that question all my life--except, for "wolf," substitute "god." ROFL, EE!!
Church Lady said...Loved GTPs 2 and 3! I'm sorry, But I just imagine (okay, dream) of putting my husband in a cage and calling him a pet. Except when it's time for sex- then he can be let out for five minutes.
Author, I agree with EE's rewrite of the opening 2 paragraphs. You're lucky he's feeling generous today.
Dave said...A few weeks ago, when this appeared on Electra's Crapometer, I suggested not starting the query with a rhetorical question. I see I have to explain this.
You ask "Is a man, a man when he's trapped in the body of a wolf " ... Notice I asked the question so that I couldn't say "NO' as a sarcastic remark and set the piece of paper down (or delete the email).
That's the first reason. Rhetorical questions are easy rejections.
What is this story about? It's a clever retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It's a love story, a romance.
That's the second reason why your rhetorical question is bad. This isn't about just the Beast, it's about Beau (or Belle, or whatever her name is). You ask the reader of the query to accept the world of an anthomorphic wolf but he can't be made human again without the love of a woman. That immediately switches the entire metaphysical basis of the story.
And one last reason.
"What makes a man, a man" (which is the essence of your opening question) says the novel is closely associated with the MALE figure. It also implies that Garwaf might not return to being human. Garwaf the lupine beast might remain Garwaf the wolf forever.
Is that the twist? Are we seeing the same gimmick as we saw in Shrek? The romantic female interest joins him in being a wolf? If that's so, I would ask "what makes a woman a woman."
Your question emphasizes the male in the story at the expense of the female. The story isn't about one or the other character, but both as they interact. At least half of the story wil be the Lady Beau's efforts to redeem Garwaf from his wolfie existance and then, i guess, they live happily ever after. (unless they go bankrupt thanks to high priced depilatory and electolysis bills).
Oh yes, what is the end of the story? Happy - they marry? Sad - they part? Furry - they have puppies? or Alien rabbits arrive and...
I think EE's given you a great start for a query, BTW.
elissa said...I like the sound of this story (but then, I'm a sucker for Beauty and the Beast stories). I like that your heroine has to participate in the intrigues of the king's court if she's to help Gabriel--this tells me that she likely grows and learns through the course of the story, since she decides to do something so distasteful and unnatural (since she's outspoken, and politics etc. often requires sneaking about and great subtlety and diplomacy) to her.
Calling her "Lady Beau" would really bug me for the whole length of the novel, however. Not only is Beau a man's name, it's the masculine form of the word meaning "attractive" or "handsome" in French. So you have a heroine with a guy's name, and a name with a mascuine meaning. You've named your girl "Handsome."
phoenix said...Poor author. You're getting a rehash of all the crapometer comments here.
I'm still comfortable with your one-two setup of questions at the beginning that focus on the hero and then the heroine. I think Dave may have overlooked the second heroine-related question?
You begin with a question that is 1) not directed to the reader of the query, and 2) not answered by a yes/no response. "How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?" is a actually good example of a line that is better because it's a rhetorical question.
As with all writing, cliches, stock characters/plots, and rhetorical questions can sell based on execution. Otherwise, explain the $1.5M for the cliche apocalyptic vampire novels that just sold. Never say never...
Yes, your story is a romance and therefore about both characters. By default, however, since you've set up the hero as more out of the ordinary than the heroine, attention will get focused on him. Do you mainly remember Belle or the Beast? Christine or the Phantom? Fiona or Shrek?
The conventions for a romance query are a bit different, and you've almost got it here. Your first character paragraph is about Gabriel. Good. I would then move the paragraph about Lady Beau so it comes next, but keep it tight to Beau's perspective - what she needs and wants. Then the final paragraph can talk about the trials that must be overcome before they can be together. In this case, since you've called it a romantic fantasy and given us the traditions, we know it'll have an HEA, so you shouldn't have to explicitly state that they wind up together. It's well implied.
Apologies if I led you wrong on the "twist" thing. I think it's clear, but others are apparently having a problem. Still, you don't want to make it seem it is simply a retelling. Not for a YA audience, at least. It needs something hook-y to assure the agent of that. You MIGHT get away with a non-parody retelling with the younger crowd, but YA requires something novel.
You're almost there! This version has come a long way from the one on COM. And I like the name Gabriel much better than Garwaf! (But could you rethink Beau's name, too?)
(Wowzer, just what the heck is "Benevolet Editor" filtering out??)
Um, Church Lady, let hubby out for five minutes for sex? Honey, you and me need to talk...
Ello said...To be honest, I'm a bit put off by the title and I agree that Lady Beau does not ring right. EE's rewrite is excellent and Dave makes some great points. My only addition is that you mention it is in the tradition of Diana Wynne Jones who I equate with stories of magic, but magic is really not a part of your query, just an assumption that it is involved because of the wolfman bit. It seems a disconnect. But the story idea sounds very interesting.
Evil Editor said...Your first character paragraph is about Gabriel. Good. I would then move the paragraph about Lady Beau so it comes next
It does come next. The king/adviser dialogue interrupts one long paragraph.
blogless_troll said...This sounds interesting, but I would like to know how Gabriel got permanently trapped in wolf form by someone who just found out he was a werewolf. It sounds too easy. Unless his wife could use magic, in which case that might be a better description than "unfaithful."
Also, I'm not a werewolf expert and I've never researched medieval werewolfery, but it seems there are three basic shapes: human, wolf, and the in between monster you get in movies. You're saying the longer he stays in wolf form, the less human he becomes. So, wouldn't it follow that if he stayed in human form longer, he would become less wolfy? Then why didn't the wife just trap him in human form instead? If it's because she's "unfaithful" that's kinda weak. There's gotta be an easier way to get rid of a husband you don't want.
And since this is YA, it might be less confusing to illustrate Gabriel losing his humanity with the help of some kind of mechanical device, like a Wolf-O-Meter. Nothing fancy, maybe a modest, wrist-worn gauge or something with the silhouette of a human on the left and a wolf on the right. If the needle ever crosses into the red Gabe loses his humanity forever sort of thing. You need some sort of deadline, because the query makes it sound like all Lady Beau needs to do is lock Gabriel in his cage until she finds a cure for him, even if it takes years.
dancinghorse said...This has some nice potential, but I see I'm not alone in my problem with the heroine's name.
If you claim to have done extensive research, but get a prominent and basic element wrong, that kind of blows your credibility. You'd be amazed how many fantasy editors, agents, writers, and fans are experts in the period. They will catch mistakes, and one this basic will blow you right out of the ballpark.
Now mind you, if it's short for, say, Ysabeau, and there's a story that goes with it, which indicates that you really do know what you've done here, that's different. (Hey, I can even justify naming a Viking princess Tiffany. But I don't just play a medievalist on TV, I are one. I know how to get away with it. Real expertise can do just about anything--as long as it backs it up with solid, and I mean granite-hard, research and educated reasoning.)
December/Stacia said...I agree about not startiing the query with a question, and I have to argue with at least one other statement. Claiming you did extensive research on the medieval period and then having your heroine (whose name is not great--research actual medieval names, please, and language, since for a large portion of the period the nobility spoke French) "packed off to court to find a rich husband" is a contradiction. Medieval ladies of rank and wealth had arranged marriages; they did not go off to "find a husband". Some of them were betrothed from birth, most had marriages arranged later, but it had to do with property and wealth and the decisions of the parents; there wasn't a marriage market the way that statement implies.
Those who weren't betrothed by a certain age might have been sent to Court, but not to "find" a husband; they would have been sent to be ladies-in-waiting while their parents or the King himself found a suitable husband.
It's a very Regency-era phrase you've used, and it's out of place for the medieval period. Sorry, but it really jumped out at me.
Bernita said...I think December nailed it. Your query does not reflect any extensive research into medieval realities, but rather contradicts your claim. Perhaps it is best omitted.
Anonymous said...AUTHOR HERE: This might become a little snarky. I apologize in advance. I really have learned and improved a lot from posting on this site and others. Thank you to everyone for their notes and helpful suggestions.
Now, after catching flak here AND on crapometer for my heroine's frigging name and me not knowing what I'm doing, etc I rise to defend myself.
1) Her full name is Isabeau. She goes by Beau for short.
2) I decided not to go with Belle or Beauty because those are cliche and have been done to DEATH
3) In the story she ends up rescuing her man. She is, in fact, HIS Prince Charming. So I gave her a more masculine name on purpose as a kind of amusing (to me) homage to that.
I did do my research. I do know what I'm doing and no, I'm not changing her name. So, can we please stop commenting on that?
Thanks again everyone for all your help.
Here's a revised query based on the feedback I've received. (If someone can come up with a better hook then I will ditch my rhetorical question.)
Critique away. Can't wait to see what everyone has to say.
Dear Benevolent Editor:
How is a man supposed to be a man when he’s trapped in the body of a wolf? And what is the woman who loves him supposed to do about this rather awkward situation?
A romantic fantasy for young adults in the tradition of Robin McKinley and Diana Wynne Jones, GARWAF blends the story of Beauty and the Beast with Marie de France’s lais “Bisclavret.”
Lady Isabeau has been packed off to the royal court to snare herself a rich husband by her father so she can pay his gaming debts. Bored by the petty intrigues of court, her loneliness and frustration are eased when the king puts her in charge of the care and comfort of his new pet wolf. Isabeau quickly realizes the beast is more than he seems, for this "wolf" was once Gabriel, the king's favorite knight. Resolving to do all in her power to restore him, Isabeau is sorely tested as the trials of court and confrontations with those who betrayed Gabriel lead him to stray ever further from his already dwindling humanity. Trapped in his wolf form permanently by his unfaithful wife when she learned his dire secret, Gabriel struggles to fall into the ways of his old life and fights his wolfish urges to maim and kill.
As Gabriel and Beau grow to understand and care for one another despite his horrific curse, rumors of an uncannily intelligent and mild-mannered wolf at the royal court reach the ears of Gabriel’s wife, Alison, and her unscrupulous new husband, Reynard. All the circumstances of the wolf’s capture and his subsequent integration into court life lead Alison to suspect that the king’s pet “Garwaf” is none other than her first husband Gabriel in his wolfish aspect. Though her second marriage to Reynard has been far from happy, Alison knows she will need Reynard to quietly dispose of the king’s new pet. Gabriel, they know, is the one creature that, should he ever return to his human self, could strip them of everything they have schemed so hard to gain. Desperate and reckless, Alison and Reynard are unafraid to dispatch Gabriel and anyone else, like Isabeau, who might stand between them and the werewolf they need to kill.
A synopsis, first 50 pages, and SASE for your reply are included. I look forward to sending you the complete manuscript. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.
Church Lady said...How about opening with: Gabriel is a beastly lover. Lady Isabeau has no choice but to keep him in a cage.
Okay, I know people automatically think everything I say is a joke, but I am actually serious.
I remain in the camp that's against opening with a rhetorical question.
Good luck with your query.
Ello said...Hey author! I really like your new query. And I'm really intrigued. I would want to read this book. And I don't even like medieval romances! This sounds awesome. I don't even have any quibbles. And the fact that you say Lady Isabeau first before moving to her nickname took care of my initial problem with her name. Now it makes sense! I still think Garwaf is a funny name, but it wouldn't stop me from reading the book. I can't believe how much better this query is. You did a great job. Good luck!
Evil Editor said...Desperate and reckless, Alison and Reynard are unafraid to dispatch Gabriel and anyone else, like Isabeau, who might stand between them and the werewolf they need to kill.
Drop that sentence from the end of your plot; the previous sentence is a better ending.
blogless_troll said...I liked this version much better. It flows from beginning to end instead of jumping around like the original.
And I would keep the rhetorical question opening simply out of spite. You have to keep in mind that some of these writing "rules" are just the result of a desperate need for blog content. (Not EE's, or course.)
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There’s never any knowing—(how am I to put it?)—which of our actions, which of our idlenesses won’t have things hanging on it for ever.
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Another week (minus an hour), another collection of links. Please let me know if I missed yours!
The Cabinet of Wonders, by Marie Rutkoski, at Log Cabin Library
Dogsbody, by Diana Wynne Jones, at Views From the Tesseract
The Finisher, by David Baldacci, at Pissed Off Geek and Reader, Writer, Critic (and not a review, but if you want my take on the first 119 pages, here it is)
Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo, at alibrarymama
Garden Princes, by Kristin Kladstrup, at Jean Little Library
Gideon's Spear, by Darby Karchut, at Middle Grade Ninja
How To Catch a Bogle, by Catherine Jinks, at The Book Monsters
The Hypnotists, by Gordon Korman, at That's Another Story
The Icarus Project, by Laura Quimby, at The Book Brownie
Janitors, by Tyler Whitesides, at Bookshop Talk
Magic Marks the Spot, by Caroline Carlson, at The Book Monsters
Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers, at Fantasy Literature
Midnight for Charlie Bone, by Jenny Nimmo, at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow
Mindscape, by M.M. Vaughan, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile
Neversink, by Barry Wolverton, at Bound By Words
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, by Karen Foxlee, at Sarah Monsma
The Peculiar, by Stefan Bachmann, at Log Cabin Library
The Riverman, by Aaron Starmer, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile and Megan Likes Books
Rose and the Magician's Mask, by Holly Webb, at Charlotte's Library
Sabotaged (The Missing Book 3) by Margaret Peterson Haddix, at Time Travel Times Two
The Shadow Throne, by Jennifer Nielsen, at The Book Monsters, She Has Left the Room, and proseandkahn
Simon Bloom: The Gravity Keeper, by Michael Reisman, at Madigan Reads
Sleeping Beauty's Daughters, by Diane Zahler, at Pages Unbound
The Slither Sisters, by Charles Gilman, at The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd, at proseandkahn, Welcome to my (New) Tweendom, and Waking Brain Cells
The Wells Bequest, by Polly Shulman, at Leaf's Reviews
Three adventures at sea, at Views from the Tesseract: Deadweather and Sunrise, by Geoff Rodkey, Magic Marks the Spot, by Caroline Carlson, and Oliver and the Seawigs, by Philip Reeve.
Authors and Interviews:
Natalie Lloyd (A Snicker of Magic) at Literary Rambles (with giveaway)
Laurisa White Reyes (The Celestine Chronicles) at Word Spelunking (with giveaway)
Suzanne de Montigny (The Shadow of the Unicorn) at One Writer's Journey
Other Good Stuff
If you want to go into MG SFF tbr overload, here's a list I compiled of forthcoming books--lots and lots of beautiful forthcoming books--at Middle Grade March, with a bonus giveaway of and ARC of A Hero's Guide to Being and Outlaw!
At GreenBeanTeenQueen, the most recent guest post in the "So You Want to Read Middle Grade" series is Stephanie Whalen, offering lots of MG Sci Fi book suggestions.
And Stephanie's Tuesday Ten at Views From the Tesseract is "Birds of a Feather."
And for more listy fun, at SF Signal, the current "Mind Meld" asks a variety of great folks what sci fi or fantasy books they'd recommend for kids under ten.
The Canadian Children's Book Centre has announced its shortlist for the 2014 Canadian Literature Association-- which includes Curse of the Dream Witch, by Allan Stratton, And The Accidental Time Traveller, by Janis Mackay, is the winner in the Younger Readers category of the Scottish Children's Book Awards.
There's a petition at change.org asking publishers to stop labeling children's books as "for boys" and "for girls." My ten-year-old son, who is personally affected by this issue, has signed, and is very proud of his first foray into activism!
If I win the lottery I shall go to this September's Diana Wynne Jones conference in Newcastle, UK.
But even without winning the lottery I will probably make it to Boscon (the Boston Sci Fi convention) in February of 2015 because Robin McKinley is the guest of honor....
There's a new issue of Middle Shelf Magazine up, with lots of mg sff goodness in it.
Movie News! The Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, is coming to the big screen, directed by Juan Antonio Bayona.
Living in a sci fi world back in the 16th century-- rocket cats (and birds) as weapons of war. If only the rocket cats (and birds) could escape afterwards....
The Kombat Kittens, on the other hand, seem to be willing participants...
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“I’ve never met a really good writer who lives in high style. I think a stylish life is unsuitable to the writer, and very often in the house where there’s a mild disorder one finds the writer with the best powers of organising his work. Order where order is due.”
Muriel Spark— “The Poet’s House”
(I’m counting the days until this book comes out!)Add a Comment
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Middle graders learn about these common literary themes in their language arts class.
How lucky could a girl get? Moving from a small village to a palace to be friends with a Princess. Was it lucky forever?
You will feel badly for Anahita and feel her shame and pain. Indira is a character that you want to dislike at times because of her selfishness but can't. Donald will make you mad as well as feel sorry for.
THE MIDNIGHT ROSE is different from Ms. Riley's other books, but equally as good. It took a few pages to get into the gist of it, but once England meets up with India and the story of Anahita’s life is revealed, THE MIDNIGHT ROSE will have you quickly turning the pages to see what happens next. The secrets rolled off the pages and made THE MIDNIGHT ROSE a book you won't want to put down.
Don't miss this new book of Ms. Riley's. Even though it takes a few pages to get involved, the storyline is amazing and the ending pages of Anahita's diary are superb. 4/5
This book was given to me free of charge by the publisher in return for an honest review.
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Time is a funny old thing. It catches you out. Memories come back whenever they please and sometimes they surprise you. They never go away, they only seem to. Take yesterday. I was at work, getting ready to go home, and suddenly, out of nowhere, I wasn’t there at all, I was something like eight years old and the school bell was ringing and it was time to go home for tea. Alleycat says that time’s like a long dark corridor with a bright light up ahead. If you look back you can see the past, the places you’ve already been, because the light is shining towards those things, but if you look ahead the light’s too bright and you can’t see anything because you’re blinded. He’s full of wise sayings like that. Sometimes he acts like an ordinary moggie, other times he acts like a sage. Pink doesn’t act much at all, except like herself. She’s very happy at the moment because spring has sprung, seemingly, and instead of basking under the reptile lamp on the kitchen table she can start to wander at large from hot spot to hot spot in the house.
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Every other year, shortly before the Ides of March and just as precarious an omen, cometh the Whitney Biennial. This year’s model splits the show more or less into three floors, each curated by a different individual, and each thus aligned with a particular sensibility, hierarchy, and vision. Reviews started trickling in after the media preview, among them kudos for Floor 4, helmed by Michelle Grabner, coeditor of The Studio Reader and professor of painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Hyperallergic notes the floor as “the most tightly curated and coherent of the three,” and includes a photo essay sampling the work; critic Jerry Saltz, in an otherwise lukewarm review of the show, acknowledges Grabner’s curation as “includ[ing] the show’s visual and material high point: a central gallery crammed with colorful painting, sculpture, and handmade objects as well as ceramics and textiles.”
I am exceedingly comfortable in studios and among the materials of art and art-making. So needless to say, I felt confident visiting artists in their studios and sure-footed during the installing and juxtaposition of artworks in the galleries. I was least comfortable when the process of curating was merely the developing of quantifiable information.
The Whitney Biennial runs through May 25, 2014.
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So, I am waiting to hear about revisions and projects and all sorts of random stuff and this puts me in what I call Writer Waiting Mode.
I am not really good at waiting, so I am trying to write an adult mystery/suspense thing. It is ridiculously fun and sort of freeing.
It's made me wonder what other people do when they wait to hear about things work or personal-life related.
And now get ready for:
A BIG TOPIC JUMP
My daughter has really delicate sneezes where you actually hear the sounds "Ah-choo." I sneeze like I'm being murdered. I do not think this is fair. Also, how pathetic is it that I am envious of her sneezing noise? Bad mother, Bad.
And now get ready for:
A RANDOM PET PHOTO
Scotty is terribly bored by this post. He can't even read the whole thing. You can tell by his tight jowled expression and closed eyes.
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A Cuddly Collection of Fur and Friendship by Cate Holly. I don't know why - but this video cracks me up! It makes my husband want to start drinking... Hm.
Click the image below if the video above gives you trouble.
When I worked at a children's clothing company, the word "cute" became a hot-button. We banned ourselves from saying it, mostly because it was said so often it drove us all crazy! Maybe that's part of why this made me giggle. (It's been long enough since I worked at the clothing company, I'm no longer scarred.)
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