The Dubious Feminism of Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer, the queen of vampire romance and self-proclaimed feminist, has published a new book. After her best selling four-book collection and her SF novel The Host (which is my favorite Meyer’s novel, by the way), The Chemist was released in November, and it was advertised as Meyer’s departure from YA fiction and her plunge into the world of thriller/mystery novels.

I gave this book a fair try, I really did. I was eager to see Meyer use her indisputable talent for writing page-turners to create something more mature and substantial, something less of a: I-am-a-clumsy-girl-with-a-twisted-taste-in-men-who-waits-to-be-saved and more of a badass main protagonist. I was excited when I read that Alex, the heroine of the novel, seems to be a complete opposite to Bella Swan, the please-turn-me-into-a-vampire girl in the Twilight series. After having read the novel, I was very much disappointed. And here is why:

Despite having promised us a vastly different heroine this time, deep down, Alex and Bella are not so different at all. Alex is an agent working in a particularly shady branch of government and does not hesitate to use violent methods to reach her goal. She is also in a constant fight-or-flight mindset: she sleeps with her gas mask on to prevent suffocating from various deadly chemicals that are set to release in case someone breaks in. You would think this girl would have other things on her mind instead of finding Mr Right: but no, Alex falls in love at first sight with Daniel, a puppy-eyed school teacher (who is apparently fine with the fact that she just tortured him, because, you know, boobs). Her boss gives her one last job, which includes kidnapping and torturing Daniel. However, she soon realizes that he is one of the good guys and spends a giant portion of the book swooning at the sight of him. Now, this whole: is-he-a-good-or-a-bad-boy premise is strangely familiar to me, as to all those who have read the first Twilight book.

What really bothers me is the fact that a novel who is supposed to be a deadly mission of a female assassin in a world filled with mystery and intrigue turns out to be mostly conversations about dogs and food. Not only the initial premise of the book failed to deliver, but also the actual romantic plot significantly lacked substance (that’s just a nice way of saying it was really boring). Obviously, Meyer didn’t realize that making her heroine geeky and skilled in all sorts of weapons is not enough to make her a feminist character. Because, in the end, her life still ends up revolving around her love interest. My actual thoughts while reading? Alex, your Bella is showing.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I have read and enjoyed Twilight. I was 17 when the book came out, and reading Bella’s thoughts felt like reading my own diary. The reason why Twilight managed to attract such a huge amount of readers is not only Meyer’s ability to write stories that feel as comforting and addictive as eating junk food, but also the non-descriptiveness of the heroine: Bella is relatable insofar as she reflects each and every insecurity of the novel’s target audience: fear of being unlovable, less-then, unworthy of the attention of others. It sure did reflect my fears and insecurities at the time. Not only that, but it made me see my boyfriend as romantic and mysterious instead of violent and abusive as he was.

The truth is, while I have grown up to be a feminist and a person who knows her value and does not allow others to mistreat her, at 17 I wasn’t so self-aware. I found comfort in reading about Bella’s divorced parents (just like mine), about her not fitting in any group and her clumsiness. Hell, Bella and I even shared the same literary preference: we both loved Jane Austen. So when I met a tall and mysterious boy who sent me mixed signals and performed big, dramatic gestures to convince me of his affection I really fell for it. I have read about it so many times. I thought that’s what love is supposed to look like. But my “Edward” didn’t have the excuse of being a supernatural being like the one in the book: he was just a messed up kid with a lousy childhood who was just as clueless as I was about how love and relationships work. We hurt each other a lot those months we spent together, but that time also taught me a valuable lesson: if you ever meet someone whose behavior resembles the one of the brooding prince of darkness, run for your life. Do not romanticize violence or unpredictable behavior.

Why am I sharing this with you? To explain my complicated, love-hate relationship with Meyer’s novels, and my own path towards becoming a confident feminist I am today. Because, when I recently picked up the Twilight books, and afterwards The Chemist, I was appalled at the feeble-minded Bella and her putting up with Edward’s aggressive and controlling behavior. I was honestly disgusted at myself and my own love for these books, seven years ago.

Besides the argument that this is hardly a feminist read, my other objections to this book are that some “solutions” seem like just plain lazy writing. I mean: twin brothers? There is hardly a more unimaginative option. It reminds me of Vampire Diaries. Also, the boss asking the heroine to complete one more job is the basic plot of so many action movies I have lost count.

This might be due to my everlasting love of dogs, but the parts I enjoyed the most were those focusing on Kevin and his relationship to his extremely intelligent dogs.

To be fair, I have to say this: my 17-year-old self would have loved The Chemist. And maybe, just maybe, Daniel is a healthier literary crush that Edward, despite his willingness to endure torture if the torturess is hot. Oh well. Maybe Meyer is just a master of writing for her target audience. However, I must say I am glad that I am no longer that audience. My inability to relate to her heroines and to enjoy plots in which a woman’s life revolves around a man proves to me that I have managed to move away from my teenage mindset. Don’t get me wrong: I am not hating on Meyer, I’m just saying that, for someone who claims to be a feminist author, her novels are strangely un-feminist. Both Twilight series and The Chemist can be an entertaining read if you are into that sort of stuff, however, I think that Meyer should at least be honest and admit that they are hardly feminist novels.

As we take part of the society that is on the path to equality, I think it is important to be aware of all the (more or less) hidden messages in our literature and art, because only then we will be able to make informed choices and think critically about what we read and listen to, instead of being passive consumers.

Have you read The Chemist? Did you like it?

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Five Main Benefits of Creative Writing Workshops

Joining a creative writing workshop can be scary, especially for beginners, because allowing others to read your writing means also allowing them to criticize your work as well (hopefully in a constructive way). However, I think that the pros by far outweigh the cons. Here are some of the major advantages of creative writing workshops I have identified so far from my own experience:

1. Motivation

If you feel like you are meant to write stories, but somehow never get around to actually doing it, if you find yourself constantly procrastinating and inventing excuses not to write, you probably need an additional boost of motivation. Joining a group of other people who are also aspiring writers can give you a sense of urgency that you are presently lacking. For example, if the group meets on Thursdays, and everyone has to bring their story on that day, you don’t want to be the only one without their homework. Creative writing workshops keep you accountable to your goals. Having a set deadline is the best way to keep writing even on the days when you don’t feel like it, or, as I like to say, to turn your Netflix evenings into your writing evenings. *sobbing quietly*

2. Constructive Criticism

Teachers of creative writing workshops are experts in the field, and possibly writers themselves. It is always a good thing to have someone other than your friends and family to read your stories, and give you their honest (and educated) opinion. (Let’s face it, your friends will always say it’s the best piece of fiction they have ever read, and the road to success is not paved with vanity). They might notice something that you missed, and sometimes it is the small details that really make or break the story. It’s great to have this opportunity to improve your writing skills, and become aware of some of the errors you are prone to making (such as using too much adjectives, for example). You should always keep in mind that the teacher’s goal is to help you, and not to criticize you. You share a common goal: to improve your writing.

3. Learning From the Mistakes of Others

The teacher is not the only one giving you feedback, at least that’s how my creative writing workshop works. We all have to listen carefully to the stories of others, and make notes about some things that they did well, and on others that could use some improvement. Clearly you shouldn’t take all the comments of your colleagues as absolute truths: in my creative writing group there is an old lady sensitive to descriptions of violence, and no matter how well written the story is, she dislikes it because it feels too graphic for her. However, if more that three people notice the same thing, it might be worthwhile to think about it and revise your story. Also, hearing the mistakes of others can help you avoid doing the same thing in your writing.

4. Inspiration

Creative writing workshops can be a great source of inspiration for your writing. The teacher is usually required to come up with a series of writing tasks or props, usually related to whatever the subject you are dealing with at the time (for example, writing a dialogue, coming up with a convincing character, etc). Sometimes, these tasks can really inspire you to write longer pieces of fiction than originally intended, and think of stories you would never have come up with otherwise. It is a great opportunity to really explore your writing style and to try a wide range of different subjects and narrators. Experimenting with different styles brings you closer to discovering your true writing voice.

5. Support

Being able to hang out with other people who also write is an incredibly rewarding experience. Many writers have felt isolated or discouraged from writing because nobody took them seriously or they thought that everyone could do it (yeah, right). Creative writing workshops are full of people who agree that a) good writing is hard, b) that writing can be improved with practice and c) that writing good stories is worth the time spent on said practice. During your meetings, you are surrounded by people who get it: they know how difficult it can be, but also know that quitting is not an option. The members of your creative writing group can be your biggest cheerleaders, and also the people to celebrate your writing victories with.

This is a part of my group:

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These are my experiences with creative writing groups. Which are yours?
Let me know in the comments!

Christmas Writing Props

Here are some Christmas related writing props to inspire you in the holiday season:

  1. Write about a secret that is revealed at Christmas dinner
  2. Write about that aunt/uncle that drinks all the wine
  3. Write about that one family member everyone talks about behind their back at family gatherings
  4. Write about a couple that spends their first Christmas together
  5. Write about the first Christmas without a deceased family member
  6. Write about your favorite Christmas decoration
  7. Write about your Christmas tree
  8. Write about the story behind you mom’s special dish she makes every Christmas
  9. Write about your favorite Christmas present ever received
  10. Write about what changed since last Christmas

Of course, you don’t have to write about yourself: you can write from your character’s perspective as well.

I hope you find these helpful.

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Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of my wonderful followers! 🙂

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Fake Character Flaws

You know this one: in order to come up with relatable characters for your story, you have to give them some flaws. Flaws make characters human, and the fact is that humans are far from being perfect. That being said, in recent fiction I have seen so much of what I call “fake flaws”, because they are not actually flaws: instead of adding depth to the character, they only add to their charming personality (boring). This happens when the writer falls in love with his/her creation, instead of worrying about the readers who will start yawning at the endless descriptions of how perfect the character is. Anyhow, here are my top 5 most common fake character flaws that I’ve noticed in recent fiction:

  1. Being clumsy

    This particularly refers to girls. When you have a young female protagonist, and want people to like her and relate to her, especially if you are writing YA fiction, you cannot go wrong with giving your character a tiny little flaw of being really clumsy. Make sure she trips over things several times during the story. Seriously? They couldn’t come up with anything better? I doubt it.

  2. Being nerdy

    In bad writing, being into technology and/or science fiction makes you an overly intellectual person a.k.a. a nerd who is unable to hold a conversation with people. In real life, people are rarely that simple. If the biggest flaw a character has is rambling too much about tech stuff or just watching a particular TV show, it is still a flat character.

  3. Being selfless

    Average people rarely sacrifice themselves willingly for others, especially if they don’t know them very well. Having a healthy sense of ego and firm personal boundaries is generally a positive thing. However being a sort of Mother Theresa is hardly what I would call a flaw. I am so tired of reading about all these selfless characters who risk everything for others. That’s not how (most) people work.

  4. Being overprotective

    This one is similar to the previous one. I have encountered it more predominantly among male characters. They are brave and intelligent, and also a bit arrogant because they believe that they know what’s best for everybody. They also do not believe that others are capable of surviving without their help, so they follow them everywhere they go and continuously rescue the damsels in distress. Their flaw is that they are too perfect. Give us a break, Supermen.

  5. Being impatient/stubborn

    It seems to me that there are so many character out there who are young and brave, but their biggest flaws are impatience and inability to listen to the advice of others. Why can’t it be the other way around? Why can’t a main character be extremely conscientious and calculated and maybe worry about being able to make the right decision, instead of diving head first into whatever adventure they are facing? Maybe because it is way cooler to have a character be impatient than cowardly, but we have heard that story too many times already.

Seriously, this has to stop. In order to create truly relatable characters, we must all just stop writing Superman/Lois Lane characters and think more in the direction of, let’s say, Professor Snape.

Best Books About Running

If you have been reading my posts lately, you know that I love running. However, it wasn’t always like this. It was my boyfriend who first inspired me to take up running. Knowing I was also a bookworm, he recommended me some of the books which really got me into this whole philosophy of long distance running. Later on, I went to hunt for books about running, and here is the short list of my absolute favorites:

  1. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Both my boyfriend and I are big Murakami fans, so this is the first book I have ever read on the subject. I must say I was completely blown away by it. This book combines my two passions: reading/writing books and working out. It really opened my eyes to the spiritual dimension of long distance running. Since I am an aspiring writer, it was interesting to me to read another writer’s approach to running, instead of picking up some generic “how to” manual. The main revelation of this book is the huge impact that running has on writing. Certainly, to compare myself to Murakami would have been a sacrilege, however, I must say that running often times help me clear my mind and organize my thoughts in a much more concise way. Running leaves me refreshed and ready to continue working on my stories. In fact, if you are suffering from writer’s block, running is definitely the one thing that I would recommend to get your creative juices flowing. All in all, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a great book for all of us writing folks who just can’t see the point of running.

  1. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

This book is very different from the previous one on this list: instead of an intellectual perspective, it shows us the sheer power of human body and what it’s capable of. The novel focuses on the tribe of world’s greatest long distance runners, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians. The narrator not only gets to meet Caballo Blanco, a legendary runner who lives among the tribe, but also trains for the challenge of a lifetime: a fifty-mile race

taking place in the dangerous Tarahumara country. Other contestants include a famous, but surprisingly modest ultramarathoner, a hot young surfer, and a guy who feels strongly about only running barefoot regardless of the circumstances. This is an exciting story about surpassing the limits that once seemed unreachable. I might not be running with the Tarahumara tribe, however, I believe that running is more about training your mental strength than just physical endurance. It was also a very educational read, as it offers some interesting answers to the questions that every runner wonders from time to time: why do we run? And why are we good at it? To find out, read McDougall’s book. You won’t be disappointed.

3. Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley

This is a great, relatable read for first time runners. When Alexandra Heminsley decides to take up running, at first she fails miserably despite careful preparations (a.k.a. Eating toast and honey for breakfast and creating a perfect playlist). This is a refreshing novel that tells it how it is for the beginners: running is not always a blissful experience, and to achieve some progress you really have to push yourself forward and be consistent with your training. However, the novel assures us that it’s all worth it at the end, because the benefits of running outweigh by far its cons (a.k.a. Our laziness to get going instead of watching another episode on Netflix). All in all, this is a fun and inspiring read and I would definitely recommend it to everyone who is just starting to hit the road and feels like running is a mission impossible. Because it does get better . And once it does, you will be amazed by what you can achieve.

These are my favorite books about running. If you have any recommendations, let me know. I am always in search for new reads.

How To Stay Positive When You Feel Like Your Writing Sucks

Being a writer can be hard. Especially when you are just starting your writing path. I should know: I have published a lot of short stories and poetry in various collections and online, but still haven’t gotten around to publishing my first novel. That’s why it is sometimes hard for me to even think of myself as a writer. That’s why I sometimes struggle and wonder if my book is ever going to come out.

The truth is, I have written several books. But I am still struggling to reach out and finally release them into the world. It is not the actual process of publishing a novel that I am worried about, but what bothers me the most is the teeny tiny voice in my head that whispers: “You are not ready. This novel sucks. Nobody will ever read your book.” And so I procrastinate, write some more, and put off publishing my writing ad infinitum.

Of course, none of this makes sense. Besides being a Writer in Wedges, I may also be a Worthless Writer, but hey, the only way to find this out is to actually publish my writing. If I never publish my novel, I will never know how it might have turned out. More importantly, I will never have received the criticism that is necessary for me to improve my writing and to make my next novel a good one.

I must admit, I am a perfectionist. It is real hard for me to finish my story and just be done with it, even after extensive editing. I just find it hard to accept that the editing process cannot go on forever. The old saying that “perfect is the enemy of good” is truly the story of my life. Despite the fact that many people have praised my writing, some of them already acknowledged authors, I still doubt my ability to write fiction. This may not be a particularly useful blog post for those looking for writing inpiration, but at least I’m keeping it real.

What gets me the most is the comments of my family. Like, I have written some really dark stories. I am talking murder, violence, crime etc. When my Mom reads them, she always says something like “Why can’t you write about something more cheerful? Why are you so obsessed with those criminal minds? Why can’t you just write about regular, happy people on a sunny day?” Now, I know that my Mom, even though well-intending, is hardly a literary connoisseur: she likes feel-good stuff which helps her relax after a long day. I am perfectly aware of the fact that she does not understand the basic laws of writing fiction (there has to be a conflict of some sort), and is in no way qualified for literary criticism. However, since she is my Mom, her comments get me every time.

Also, if I write about a character who has family issues, she always finds a way to make this about her and invent a reason to be mad at me. Often times I have to explain to her that not all my stories (in fact, almost none of them) are autobiographical and are based purely on fiction. Because that’s what writing is, basically: inventing stuff. But she still refuses to believe me. Ugh.

Anyway, dealing with self doubt can be really difficult. It seems that one negative comment about my writing can ruin my day, especially if I am already in a bad mood. Those days, I wish I could just dig a hole in the ground and hide in it. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works. So I push myself forward, even when I don’t feel like it.

When I am particularly frustrated with my writing and feel like everything is going wrong, I like to do something relaxing that helps me recharge. Being around people is no good at those times, so I usually go for a walk or a run. Nature allows me to gain some perspective: it also magically fills me up with positive energy so that I feel that everything will turn out just fine.

Also, when I need some reassurance of my writing abilities, I like to read my beginner stories. They are just so bad that it’s funny. Comparing them to my newer work, one can definitely see progress. This gives me hope that, one day, I will look upon my current writing and laugh because it will seem terrible in comparison to how I will be writing then. But for that moment to come, one thing is sure: I must keep writing, and not allow the bug of self-doubt to bring me down.

Have you ever felt this way? Hopefully I am not alone in this. Do you have any reccomendations on how to get out of writer’s blues?

10 Tips For Editing Your Short Story

So you have written your short story and cannot wait to release it into the world. But before doing that, it is important to take some extra time to make sure your story is properly edited, despite the fact that editing is nowhere near as fun as writing.

  1. Spell/Grammar Check

    The first step towards the best version of your story is hitting that spellcheck button and proofreading it to make sure there are no errors. A story which contains spelling and/or grammar mistakes very often won’t be taken seriously.

  2. Remove Adjectives/Adverbs

    Sometimes, less is more, and this is especially true when it comes to adjectives and adverbs. Too much of either can suffocate your story. Instead, opt for using a stronger verb or a noun.

  3. Remove Repetition

    This is very important to keep your readers’ attention. If you catch yourself repeating the same thing several times throughout the story, you know what to do.

  4. Remove Cliches

    Cliches are a deadly sin of fiction writing. Avoid them at all cost.

  5. Begin with a Bang

    If you explain too much at the beginning of your story (if you “tell” instead of “show”), your beginning might not be as effective as it would be if you jumped straight into action. Mind you, this “action” does not have to be your characters running away from zombies (but hey, I’m not judging), however, if you begin your story with a lengthy description of the weather, many readers might get bored and abandon the story altogether.

  6. Check For Consistency

    Make sure your writing is consistent in every way. This can refer to either checking that the names of your characters are consistent throughout the story, or that their motivation corresponds to their actions. The story has to follow the rules of logic (except when its primary purpose is to twist those rules).

  7. Remove Unnecessary Explanation

    I cannot stress this enough. Just like long beginnings, explanations are often a lazy way out which indicates that an author couldn’t be bothered to write a scene in which s/he would show something instead of telling it. Let’s face it: explanations are boring. There are many things about the characters that the writer has to know, that never make it to the final version of the story. There’s nothing wrong with that. Make sure the readers know only what they really, really have to know in order to follow your story.

  8. Edit Your Dialogue

    Dialogue is essentially a conversation where the boring parts have been left out. Make sure that your dialogue truly reveals only the necessary information for the story, and cut all those random chats that do not move the story forward.

  9. Get Perspective

    Okay, so you have made sure that your short story does not have any repetition, cliches, or unnecessary explanation. Now what? The best thing you can do is to leave your story alone and come back to it with fresh eyes. You can leave it for one day, or a couple of weeks, depending on your schedule or personal preference. However, I find this step very important because it allows you to gain some perspective and to see the possible shortcomings of the story more easily.

  10. Get Feedback

    Give the story to your beta readers. They can be members of your creative writing workshop, your family or friends. In any case, they should be people you consider honest and trustworthy, and preferably experienced readers. It is better to have several opinions than only one. However, take their advice with a grain of salt: even though their feedback can be very useful, remember that you are still the author and at the end of the day should do what feels right to you instead of listening to others.

What is your editing routine? Let me know!

Strong Female Characters In Literature

Here is a list of my top 10 favorite badass female characters:

  1. Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee)

Scout, the young narrator of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird is a curious, intelligent and extremely observant little girl. She asks difficult questions and is not afraid of the answers she gets. She is a tomboy, and is often being told that she is not “girlish” enough. It is precisely her refusal to conform to the standards of how girls should behave that puts her apart from others and makes her a fighter for justice both as a child, and later on in life.

  1. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling)

The only girl of the famous Potter-Weasley-Granger trio for solving mysteries in the wizarding world is often considered to be a nerdy, bookish, plain-looking girl who spends all her free time at the library (raise your hand, fellow Potterheads, if this description reminds you of your own adolescent years). However, during the course of action, Hermione is revealed to be both smart and generous, ready to risk it all for her friends regardless of the danger. Besides, everyone knows that Ron and Harry would have never completed their education if it weren’t for her.

  1. Jo March (Little Women, Louisa May Alcott)

Jo March has always been my favorite character in the novel. Unlike her sisters, she was bold and adventurous. When Jo wished she “had been a boy”, she actually longed to be able to do all the things that boys were allowed to do, unlike girls: however, that didn’t stop her from whistling and using slang words. I admire Jo for her refusal to succumb to the pressures imposed on her sex at the time, and her determination to become a writer.

  1. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins)

Katniss might very well be the most “badass” woman on this list, considering her ability to survive relying mostly on her bow and arrow. Katniss struggled during her whole life: she faced poverty, hunger and loss. But it is not only her physical strength and her ability to fight that makes her a badass: her choosing to sacrifice first to save her sister, and then Peeta, shows that she is also selfless and brave, especially when it comes to protecting those she cares about.

  1. Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë)

While the ending of the novel might not be considered a feminist one, because Jane ultimately resorts to marriage, I believe that she can still be considered a strong female character. Her childhood and her education is marked by abuse. As she grows up, she comes to realize that she doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. It is her refusal to be treated as a “less then”, and to betray her principles for love that marks her as a feminist character.

  1. Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair,  William Makepeace Thackeray)

This is a story of another orphan of low birth, who is nowhere near Jane’s moral beliefs. Becky is a true social climber with almost sociopathic tendencies. However, despite her flaws, I still found myself rooting for her while I was reading the novel, because she is so charmingly evil. I was also willing to forgive her for actions because of the poor circumstances she was born into that shaped her character and pushed her towards not so honorable actions.

  1. Anna Karenina (Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy)

Princess Anna Arkadyevna Karenina has done something that very few women would dare to do: she risked everything for love. She abandoned the security of a loveless marriage, the conventions of her social circle, and even her own son in order to stay true to herself. Instead of being passive and suffering in silence, she had the courage to fight for her happiness. Because of her courage and determination, she deserves a place on this list.

  1. Offred (The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood)

First of all, I must say that Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite writers of all time. The Handmaid’s Tale is her first book I have ever read, and I enjoyed it immensely (while also being a little terrified, as with all of her writing). We are given very scarce information about how Offred looks, however, we know that she has viable ovaries, which speaks volumes about the way women are treated in this book. Offred’s identity is stolen from her, and yet, she uses every chance she gets to protest against this world she is trapped in. Her dark sense of humor is her biggest weapon against the unimaginable horrors of her daily life.

  1. Lily Briscoe (To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf)

Having written my MA Thesis on Virginia Woolf and feminism, Lily Briscoe has always fascinated me. Her refusal to conform to the traditional values of the society at the time and to stay unapologetically herself is truly remarkable. Lily knew what she wanted (to be a painter), and what she absolutely didn’t want (to marry and have children), and didn’t compromise her beliefs despite the fact that they condemned her to poverty. Lily gave me a lesson in integrity that I think is absolutely worth remembering.

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  1. Lisbeth Salander (Millenium Trilogy, Stieg Larsson)

One of the most recent characters in this list, Lisbeth Salander is a protagonist unlike any other. This pale, skinny young women with short hair and pierced nose and eyebrows is as far from traditional female characters as possible. Her professional path is also an unorthodox one, to put it mildly: she is a world-class hacker and investigator. Due to her traumatic past, she takes pleasure in punishing men who abuse women. Despite her aggressive ways, Lisbeth’s refusal to be victimized makes her a truly powerful character.

Do you agree with my selection? Are there some strong female characters that you feel should also be a part of this list? Let me know!

Recipe With A Story: Kotonjada

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Photo credit: Kuzinavanje.com

Has it ever happened to you that you tasted some food that you loved when you were little, and childhood memories immediately came back to life? It happened to me today: a friend of mine offered me a piece of Kotonjada, which I haven’t tasted in more than ten years. My grandma used to make it when I was young, but as she grew older, her receding health got the better of her cooking skill.

For those who are not familiar with it, Kotonjada is a specialty of Croatian cuisine (or more specifically, Dalmatian), a kind of jelly made of quinces and sugar. When I tasted it today, I felt flooded with memories. This is how I imagine Proust must have felt like when he tasted Madeleine after so many years. There they were, my grandparents, growing their own fruit and vegetables in the garden next to the cottage house. When I was a child, I used to have my own small piece of land that nobody else was allowed to touch. I planted some flowers there and watered them every time I came to visit. Unfortunately, I rarely go to the old house anymore, however, the happy days I have spent there are still vivid in my memory, especially today after tasting this fabulous dessert.

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

2 kg of ripe quinces

60 dkg sugar

Freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1 lemon

Freshly squeezed orange juice from 1 orange

Some bay leaves

Directions:

Wash the quinces and remove the seeds, then dice them and boil them in water. When they become soft, mash them in the blender, return to heat and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Add sugar, lemon and orange juice and continue cooking for another half hour. Remove from heat and, while still hot, distribute the mixture in small molds of your choice (Ours were in the shape of various fish and other sea creatures). Feel free to add some chopped nuts to your taste, however, my grandma usually made a traditional, plain version. Leave the molds to dry for 24 hours, then carefully remove the jelly and place them in a box on top of some bay leaves.

Serving suggestion: it pairs best with sweet, dessert vine, such as Prosecco.

Which are your “Madeleines”? Also, let me know if you try the recipe!

Thinking Back Through Our Family: Using Childhood Memories And Family History As A Writing Prop

Here are some tips on finding inspiration in your childhood memories and family history:

  1. Dig up an old photograph, maybe one of your parents or grandparents. Try to invent a story based on the picture.

  2. Try to remember your earliest childhood memories, and attribute them to an imaginary character.
  3. Write about the things in your childhood drawer, maybe about your favorite toy.
  4. Try to write a story from the point of view of a relative you disagree with.
  5. Holidays can be tricky, especially if you’re spending them with your extended family. Try to imagine the worst thing that could happen, or a major revelation that may occur at dinner time.
  6. Write a story with a recipe: think of a particular food which immediately reminds you of your childhood.
  7. Write a story to finish this sentence: My mother/father never…
  8. Write about your first travel experience. Was is by car, boat or plane? Where were you headed to? Tell us about it!
  9. Write about your dream career, at least what you considered to be one when you were little. For example, I wanted to be a policewoman and a veterinarian. Ended up a teacher, so you can draw a parallel here 🙂 Use your imagination to write about how your life would have looked like if you pursued this career.
  10. Write about an adventure you had with a childhood friend.

Let me know if you try any of these!