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Creative Writing Portfolio: Peganina

This is the first piece in the portfolio I created for the Creative Writing Seminar I am taking next year. Peganina is still in the works as a novel, this is just the first chapter. Hope you enjoy!

Note: The pictures are something I used as inspiration for when I got stuck writing. I don’t remember where I got them, though. They are not my own.

Old_Korvosa_Slums_by_BenWootten

Synopsis:

Peganina only wants to survive. After escaping from a husband twice her age, she finds herself alone in a dangerous world full of monsters, bandits, and thieves. While on the run from her husband, she gets captured by slave traders and meets a fellow soon-to-be slave, Flick. He orchestrates an escape from the slavers, and the unlikely pair find themselves banding together to survive. Through shipwreck, murder attempts, and intrigue, Peg and Flick learn to trust each other. An outlaw whose only goal is to bring down the gangs and headhunters that dog her every move, Peg must learn what true strength is – before things boil over into a full-blown war.

Chapter 1:

The noon sun was merciless, beating down on the dusty streets of Agnitum until the entire city was fit to boil. Peganina had moved her work mending nets inside her father’s shop to hide from the sun’s glare, but even indoors the heat was nearly unbearable. And the stench from the harbour! Sour fish mixed with the refuse from the city’s plumbing – a pungent concoction that sat thick in the air, unmoved by the half-hearted breeze. She hadn’t seen a summer this hot since the plague nearly ten years ago.

Peg tried not to worry about another plague sweeping through, claiming lives already weakened by heat and hunger. Not that she had much family left to worry about. The last plague had taken her mother, two sisters, and younger brother. The army had taken her older brother, and as for her father, he didn’t do much these days but drink.

Though the business was technically owned by her father, Peg was the family breadwinner. Net making. Net mending. Keeping track of the ledgers. By this point, they were all tasks she could do in her sleep. Keeping in clients’ good graces, however, was a little more difficult. Especially these past few months. Her father’s drinking had led him to gambling, and men from the Razors, one of the most powerful gangs in Agnitum, had started lurking around the shop.

A shout from outside made Peg jump, and she jabbed her hand accidentally with the mending dowel. The next moment it was clutched in her fist like a weapon as she slowly lowered the net she had been working on to the floor, head cocked for any more sounds from outside, eyes darting from the open door to the back window.

There was a minute of relative quiet – just the usual clamour of the market one street over, the creaking of ships in the docks, and underneath it all the distant crash of the ocean on the breakwater. Peg relaxed, chiding herself for being so paranoid, and picked up her net again, absently sucking a little blood from the finger she had pricked with her dowel. The next moment there was a sound like breaking glass, and her father fell through the doorway.

“Father!” she cried, leaping up. There was blood all down his shirt and on his face. He pushed her away when she reached for him, and he fell to the floor, his head cracking loudly on the dirty stone. “Father, what happened?” she bent down to help him, years of hurt and care pressing in on her chest. He wouldn’t meet her eyes, just kept trying to push her away.

Four very large men stepped into the shop just then, and Peg instinctively reached for her dowel. But it was on the floor across the room where she’d dropped it when running to help her father.

“What do you want?” she barked, standing protectively over her father and hoping that she wasn’t visibly shaking with fear.

“We’re collecting on this scumbag’s debt,” the largest of the four said. He spit on the doorpost and stepped further into the shop. All four men had the distinctive tattoos of the Razors. They had come at last.

“How much does he owe?” Fear pounded in Peg’s ears as she did a quick mental tally of all the money her father had. Just enough to get them through to the end of the month, assuming she could keep him from drinking it all away. And her emergency fund. She always kept three coppers stitched into her hem – just enough to buy one more loaf of bread.

“Money is a man’s business, girl. But I will tell you he’s in deeper than he can pay.”

Peg backed into the wall, and the men didn’t stop advancing. She made a quick dart for her dowel, but strong arms grabbed her and pulled her back. She screamed and tried to kick the man holding her, but he just kept pulling her towards the door.

“We can pay, we can pay, please!” They were laughing at her struggle, and as she was pulled out the door she saw her father, battered and bloody, push himself to a sitting position. She betrayed herself, screaming for him. Screaming at him to help her as she was dragged outside.

She was shoved into a solid wall of muscle. A man with greying hair and military tattoos. “Hush now, wife,” he said, “I’m going to take very good care of you.”

He pinned her to his side with one arm, waving a paper in front of her face. A marriage certificate. Peg fought him tooth and nail, throwing everything she could at him, trying to remember what her mother had told her to do if she ever got attacked. But it was no use. The man was twice her height and a trained soldier. He had her pinned to the ground with her arm twisted painfully behind her back in two seconds. He smacked her head and her face hit gravel, splitting her forehead open.

“None of that now, eh?” her new husband growled in her ear. “We don’t want to cause a scene.”

Blood from her forehead dripped into her eyes and down her face as she was pulled back up. Her husband kept a firm grip on her as he tossed a bag of coins to one of the Razors.

“Debt paid, Lucas,” the Razor said, kicking her father one more time. Then he motioned to his fellows and they trouped away, back toward the harbour and the heart of Razor territory. Peg was pulled in the opposite direction, towards a waiting wagon. She caught one last look at her father as she was unceremoniously shoved inside. The hateful shell of a man, willing to sell his only daughter to pay for his mistakes. Then the wagon pulled away and she lost sight of the only home she had ever known.

Florence_header_-_city_landscapePeg knew there was no point in trying to run away. Not at the moment, anyways. Her new husband’s servant sat at the back of the wagon, hand resting on the pommel of his sword, and her husband sat up front with the driver, also armed, hemming her in. She silently wiped away a few tears that had leaked out, and then felt the damage on her forehead. There was a chunk of gravel stuck in the cut. She grit her teeth against the sharp stinging pain as she carefully picked it out and then pressed the heel of her hand against it.

The servant was watching her. She glared back, pushing the anger and shame of being married off like livestock that can be bought and sold deep into her heart, right beside that special spot she held for her father. He would be dead within a month without her. Starve to death, probably, unless the Razors killed him first. She wished that she didn’t care.

The wagon jerked across a rutted intersection, and she involuntarily gasped in pain as her hand shifted on her head. There was a tearing noise from the back of the wagon, and a moment later the armed servant tapped her on the shoulder, holding out a scrap of rough cloth torn from the hem of his shirt.

“Thanks,” Peg said. She pressed the cloth to her bleeding forehead. The servant smiled at her, and she took a chance. “Where are you taking me?” she asked.

“My master Mako has a farm out in the northern part of the island -“

“Quiet back there!” Mako barked. The servant visibly jumped and shuffled back to his seat in the wagon’s rear. The rest of the trip to the city gates was passed in silence.

The road was hot, and travel was unfamiliar to Peg. She had never been outside the city gates before, and the wide rolling hills seemed empty without buildings crawling up their sides and crowding their tops. Their wagon joined a small caravan travelling out of the city, and Peg spent two miserable days finding out just what kind of man her husband was.

Mako claimed he was an old friend of Peg’s father, and about the same age, too – almost forty. He had served a long time in the army, mostly on the Northern front, keeping the Giants at bay. The army had repaid him for his service with a large plot of land on the northern coast of Acies Island, and now that he was finished cutting down Giants, he wanted to settle down and start a family, and for that he had needed a wife. He had heard that his old friend Lukas was in trouble with the Razors, and that Lukas had a marriageable daughter whose dowry could pay off his debts. Mako said that Peg should be grateful to him for what he had done – that he’d done Peg a great favour by marrying her.

She put on a smile to spare her forehead any more trauma, but just under that smile Peg hated him. She hated everything about him, from the constant sour odour that surrounded him like a cloud, to the way he would recline easily by the fire and expect her to hand feed him his dinner with no regard for how hungry or tired she might be. The thought of being near him for the rest of her life made her want to throw up. She knew she needed to find some way to escape, to run away, and with every passing mile her urgency increased. All she needed was a golden opportunity.

Such an opportunity came on the third night of travel, though not in the way she had hoped. The caravan had halted for the night on a lonely stretch of road between two low hills. Father in the distance, about two miles away, the rolling farmland gave way to steeper, more forested slopes. Supper had been cooked and eaten, the diForest-At-Nightshes washed, watchfires set, and the last dregs of light were fading from the sky as Peg prepared Mako’s bed in the wagon. There was a sudden cry from farther up the line, the scream of a horse, and then the distinctive ring of a sword being drawn. Peg froze, heart pounding.

“Bandits!” someone shouted. Panic spread as black-masked figures emerged from the darkness, blades glinting in the fire light. Peg saw Mako leap from his place by the fire, bellowing as he drew his sword before she ducked down and hugged the floor of the wagon, wriggling towards where she had stowed the cooking supplies, reaching for the knife. Someone vaulted into the wagon, nearly landing on top of her. She screamed as he hauled her up by her hair. Mako roared and leapt for her, but was cut off by three of the bandits.

“Stop!” shouted the bandit nearly tearing out her hair. Peg felt the cold sting of a blade on her throat and held very still. Mako took a half a step back.

“Release my wife!”

Peg’s captor laughed. “Your wife! This young flower? You could be her father.” He let go of Peg’s hair and wrapped an arm around her ribs, squeezing her against his side. His sharp hipbone dug into her stomach, and her face was squashed into his armpit. It was not a good smell.

“Release her!” Mako bellowed, brandishing his sword. He opened his mouth to shout something else, but it was drowned out by an earthshaking roar. Everyone froze, heads slowly turning to the darkness beyond the caravan as another roar broke through the night. The bandit holding her loosened his grip and Peg dove away from him, over the edge of the wagon. She landed hard on the ground, and through the wheels of the wagon she saw emerge into the firelight the largest animal she had ever seen.

It was like a lion, but twice the size, with a black serpentine tail, and what looked like the horns of a goat protruding from its tangled mane. When it opened its mouth to roar again, its maw glowed white-hot like a blacksmith’s furnace. A stunned silence lasted only a moment before the cry went up “Chimera!” and every armed man, caravaner and bandit alike, turned their blades on the beast.

Peg only paused a heartbeat before making her choice. She crept back into the wagon, grabbed the knife she had tried to reach only minutes before, shoved a hunk of travel biscuit and a water-skin down the front of her dress, and then slipped off into the darkness. She only looked back once, and she regretted it. Half the caravan was on fire, the Chimera was still up and roaring, and several figures were splayed on the ground. She tried to block out the screaming as she sprinted up the road as fast as her legs could take her, making for the forest.

It took nearly an hour to reach the eaves of the forest. She collapsed against a thick tree that stood hunched at the bottom of a hollow a few meters off the road. It was very dark under the trees, and she didn’t fancy getting lost and eaten by some creature. Once she had caught her breath, she took stock of her situation.

She was very thirsty, had nothing on her but a kitchen knife, water, and a bit of biscuit, and was a three day journey away from the city where she had spent her entire life. Even if she survived her immediate predicament and made it back to civilization, what would she do? She had no one, and she had nowhere to go. The question circled like a vulture in her head while she drank her water-skin dry and hunkered down for a long, sleepless night.

Series Launch: Creative Writing Portfolio

You may recall from this post that I wanted to get a portfolio ready to apply for a Creative Writing Seminar at university for the coming school year. My plans for getting that portfolio ready were scuppered by stress, and by the time reading week rolled around I had accepted that I wouldn’t be ready in time for the submission date (which at that point was vaguely defined as the end of April/ early May).

Finals happened, and my writing plans took a back back seat. Then I moved out of residence and into my own house (ack I have a house!!!), which was a crazy fun time but also a little stressful. Then came course registrations. The times of some of my courses changed, which messed up my whole schedule, and suddenly I had space for one more course each semester, and my Friday afternoons were free, and the Creative Writing seminar was on Friday afternoons, so in a rush of excitement that maybe I could be in the seminar next year, I went to the website to find out about applying. I was devastated to find that the due date had passed. I’d missed it by about two weeks.

I nearly cried, having got my hopes up to get them dashed like that. But I emailed the professor in charge of the applications and explained that I had missed the deadline but was very interested in the course, and asked if I could apply late. She emailed back that same day and said that if I had a portfolio ready to submit, I could still submit it.

I gave myself until the next day to get my portfolio ready – six or more pieces of my “best work” and a cover letter explaining why I wanted to take the seminar. Suffice to say that that evening was spent editing and editing and editing some more. It was hard work, but I also felt really happy while doing it.

I submitted the portfolio the next morning, and then several agonizing days later (actually it was like two days, but it felt like forever) I got an email back saying I had been accepted to the course!

I am so excited about it! When I found out I got in, I did a little happy dance and my roommate laughed at me. 😛

Putting together the portfolio means that I now have several pieces of writing that are reasonably well-polished. And getting in to the course means that I need to build my confidence in sharing my writing with others, since that is pretty much what the seminar is.

Soooo… for the next several weeks, on alternate Sundays, I’ll be sharing a piece from my portfolio with you guys. You have all been so supportive of me and my writing endeavours, and blogging has been very influential in my writerly life, so thank you all for making my literary adventures amazing thus far!

I hope you enjoy reading my work 😀

On Leaving

I moved out of residence today. My last exam was yesterday, and campus is closing  tonight. It was a rush to get all of my stuff  packed up into boxes and bags, to mooch rides off friends to get my stuff into the house I’m renting for next year (since I don’t have a car and it’s a pretty decent walk from res to my new house).  All the business and work kept me distracted from what I didn’t want to face: leaving.

But now I’m comfortably seated on my friend’s couch, alone in the apartment, and leaving is catching up with me.

Goodbyes are hard.

It’s hard to part with people who you love, who can make you laugh until your eyes water and your abs hurt. It’s hard to leave a place where there are so many memories, both good and bad. It’s hard to accept that things won’t be the way they were, that I won’t be the same person I was, when I come back in the fall.

Over the past two weeks I have said goodbye to a lot a good friends, some of them only for the next four months, others who I may never see again. I’m not going to lie and say that this year has in any way been easy for me, but it was my friends, the people who were there for me and who let me be there for them that made this year good. And saying goodbye to them is hard.

But on the bright side, I’m now on summer vacation and I get to go home and see my family and friends there. Leaving is not easy, but the flip side of leaving is going. And going means a new adventure, a new place, and so much more to learn and do.

Here is a good parting song, for any of you who may also be leaving (or being left behind): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5rpOXS9O8Q

Lent

Before I dive into this post, if you’re not really sure what Lent is or you want a quick refresher, I’d recommend reading this short article, which hits the main points of what Lent is and why Christians often observe it.

I grew up in the Anglican church, and so from a very young age I knew about Lent, and when I got older I often observed Lent. I really love the traditions, the rich symbolism, and the beautiful prayers that accompany the Lenten season. However, I found that in the small town where I am now living, the Anglican church wasn’t meeting my needs. I had no friends there, and found it hard to integrate with the community.

A lot of my friends who are a part of Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship go to a baptist church a short drive away from town, and I have started to go there as well. For the most part, I have enjoyed it. But, as with every church and every denomination, there are a few things that they do that I don’t 100% agree with. That’s just a part of life and faith, and as we read in the New Testament many times, we must remember the big, important things that bring us together, and not be torn apart by small and petty disagreements (Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 1:10, James 1: 26 – 2:13…).

All of that said, there is some antagonism towards liturgical* churches that I find present in almost every other protestant or non-denominational church I go to (and the liturgical churches are just as guilty of judging other denominations, too. We are all fallen humans, all equally sinful and all equally in need of Jesus’ forgiveness). It is not typically said outright, but it is still there in subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) ways.

*liturgical, i.e. they follow a liturgy – a specific set of prayers and responses – for each service. For example, Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches are all liturgical.

Which brings me to my main point for this post. Today in church, the pastor felt obligated to talk a little bit about Lent. It was not a main focus of the sermon by any means since Baptist Churches don’t typically observe Lent. Since I have found Lent to be a very important time of spiritual growth for me each year, I was happy it was mentioned – the more people who know about it, the more who can experience all the good that can come out it. I did not, however, appreciate the one-sided view of Lent that was offered by the pastor. He said that most Baptists don’t really think Lent is a big deal (which, from what I have seen, is true), and then he said that really we should not just set aside Lent to be living close to God, but already be doing so every day.

First of all, he is not wrong, we should be living every day of our lives lead by the Holy Spirit, dedicating each day and each action to Christ, and daily spending time reading the Bible and praying. However, there was a bit of an implication in the way that he said it that those who observe Lent use it as a way to work hard at being a “good Christian” for about a month every year, and then spend the rest of the year doing whatever they want. Essentially working their way to salvation, which is contrary to the whole message of the Gospel – that Jesus has already paid the price for us, and now He is offering us a free gift of grace if we believe in Him. I think it is unhelpful to assume that those who observe Lent are trying to save themselves through their actions and not through faith.

Second, I think that there is great merit in dedicating some time to intense fasting, prayer, and reflection. It’s actually quite a Biblical concept, and Jesus Himself fasted in the desert for forty days (Matthew 4:1-11), not to mention all the times in Acts where it is mentioned that the apostles spent time fasting before making a major decision, and the many examples of fasting as a way of repenting and connecting with God in the Old Testament. I think that discarding Lenten observations as “something we should already be doing”  cheapens the power that such actions can have. Giving up something you love (like chocolate or Netflix) and/or committing to spend a certain amount of time each day praying, reading the Bible, or spending time with God in some other way, is a way of physically showing God (and showing yourself) how committed and serious you are about Him. When I was in Albania two years ago, I heard one woman put it like this: “When I pray, it is like I am fighting the devil with one hand, but when I fast and pray, I can fight him with both fists.”

Third, observing Lent is a good thing to do, but do you have to do it to be a “good Christian”? No! Absolutely not! Salvation is not through our actions, but rather through our deep-down beliefs. These are the beliefs around which we base our whole lives. Our M.O. Our raison d’être.

I’d like to finish with a challenge:

  • To those who are already committed to observing Lent this year, spend time with God today reflecting on why you are doing this. Ask yourself if you are doing it because it’s what you’re supposed to do at this time of year, or maybe you’re trying to get into God’s “good books” somehow (hint: if you believe Jesus died and rose again to forgive your sins and you have accepted Him as your saviour, you’re already in God’s good books). Ask God to show you something new over the next weeks, ask Him to fill you with His love, and thank him for what He has done for you.
  • To those who have never observed Lent before, spend some time today asking God if it is something that you should take on. Maybe it is not right for you at this time, I don’t know, but God does. Listen to what He has to say to you, and thank Him for his amazing love and sacrifice.

Lastly, if you want some further reading on Lent, I really liked what Steve Bell had to say in his blog post last week.

I hope that you found this post helpful and thought-provoking. Please comment below with your thoughts. I’m a fan of good discussions, and this is a topic that I love to talk about. Happy Sunday!

Home for Reading Week!

Happy Monday, readers!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Keeping up with blogging is hard when I’m so busy with school. But this week is reading week! And I am home for seven whole days! So far it has been very nice to see my family and my dog 😀

Last week was a crazy time at school because we had two huge blizzards, so university only opened for two days! It was kinda like having a mini reading week before the real one started.

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Struggling through the storm. This was not even the heaviest snowfall we had that day!

Stay safe and warm, friends!

Beautiful Books: 2017 Writing Goals

I’m back at university, friends! I had my first day of classes, which is always a bit of a shock to the system after a break, but it went well! And to really kick off the blogging in 2017, I am joining in the Beautiful Books linkup hosted by Cait and Skye.

Let’s get started, shall we?

1. What were your writing achievements last year?

To be completely honest, last year was a pretty rough year all around. I had a lot going on, and university took up a large majority of my time and energy. I was so burnt out and busy that when I did have time to write, I often didn’t, because writing took brain power that I simply didn’t have to spare. So, not much was achieved in the way of words on paper or words typed, but I did write a few short stories and work on the rough draft of a novel, and I did some editing.

2. What’s on your writerly “to-do list” for 2017?

I need to finish off several pieces for a creative writing portfolio that I have to submit in order to take a really cool creative writing seminar that I want to get into next year. The portfolio is due in February, and not much work happened on it over the Christmas break, so we’ll see how that goes. It sounds like a pretty competitive course, so I’m not sure I will get accepted, but here’s to hoping and hard work!

In terms of year-long goals, I hope to re-visit edits on the still-untitled Emily Knight novel, and finish the first draft of Sidekick/Hero.

3. Tell us about your top-priority writing projects for this year!

This is kind of the same as my to-do list. I have several short (very short) stories to polish up, and several novels sitting waiting for me to write them. 😀

4. How do you hope to improve as a writer? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017?

I always hope to become a better storyteller the more writing I do. Specifically this year, I want to improve my story structures and plots. By the end of 2017 I would like to have a draft of a novel that I feel has a great overall plot and solid structure, even if the surface is a typo-ridden waffle.

5. Describe your general editing process.

I generally edit by re-reading my whole piece of work to remind myself of what I actually wrote, and compare my mental impression and sparse notes from that re-read to what I actually intended to write.

Then I go through all the scenes I have and ask myself if they are helping the story along towards the climax, or if they need to be moved or deleted or changed, and I also ask myself if any new scenes need to be added in.

Sometimes this means that I end up starting a new word document and completely re-writing the story once I have a better idea of how I want it to flow.

I basically repeat that process until I either:

a) feel satisfied with the story

b) never want to think about that story ever again (i.e. it’s not worth the time and effort)

c) run out of time and have to return to *real* life AKA I go back to school/uni

6. On a scale of 1-10, how do you think this draft turned out?

Seeing as I didn’t do NaNoWriMo this November because I like to keep up my impression of a vaguely human person, it either went great or terrible! Either way, it doesn’t exist. So we’re just going to skip over the next few questions about the novel I didn’t write and jump straight to…

10. What’s your top piece of advice for those just finished writing a first draft?

My top advice for those writing a first draft is: don’t be afraid to make mistakes! The first draft is never perfect, and that is ok. The most important thing for first drafts is to get all your ideas and words out onto the paper. Then you can start to work with them to make your rough draft into a smooth draft.

 

Do you have a writing goal or a goal for one of your other hobbies/passions for 2017? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Book Review: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick features two deaf characters and their stories, one told entirely through gorgeous hand-drawn pictures, the other in prose. The pictures make the book very fat, which looks daunting on a shelf, but it only took me about three hours to read.

It is beautiful and sweet and heartwarming, and the type of book that is better to dive into knowing very little. I can say without spoilers that is one of the best books featuring a deaf character I have ever read. And not just one, but two deaf characters!

Honestly, I can’t think of any other books I’ve read with a deaf protagonist. I tend to stay away from “issue books” and contemporary novels, and disabled characters are not very prominent in sci-fi/fantasy novels. It was also nice to read a well-written MG* novel with a simple plot and complex, thought-provoking themes. I read it over Christmas break, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

~~~Minor Spoilers Ahead~~~

One of the things that I loved about this book was how Being Deaf was not The Main Problem of the book. It’s more about family and friendship and grief and self-discovery than it is about not being able to hear.

I also liked that learning sign language didn’t come easily to the characters, particularly Ben, just because he became deaf. I know from experience that it is not easy to learn a whole new language, especially ASL since it is so different from verbal languages and has its own syntax and grammar separate from other languages. It would have been easy for the author to have Ben instantly learn how to communicate perfectly with the hearing population, but Selznick takes the harder, more realistic route, which I really appreciated.

As for things I wasn’t a huge fan of, I did find that I had to employ suspension of disbelief a bit more than I would have liked during the book, particularly with how easily the characters could sneak around without getting caught, and the odds of all the characters intersecting how they did at the end seemed pretty low to me. But then again it wouldn’t make a very good story if everything was still confusing and inconclusive at the end, would it?

This book even made me get a bit misty-eyed at the end, which doesn’t happen often for me in books. Overall, this is a book that I will continue to think and reflect on for a long time, and I strongly recommend it to everyone. Especially those looking for a short read with a unique format and complex, realistic, and sweet characters.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

 

*MG – Middle Grade. Typically features pre-teen characters, aimed at children aged 8-12 (ish). Think The Chronicles of Narnia and the first three Harry Potter books.

Dear 2016

Dear 2016,

What a year you have been!

I got to visit my sisters in Prince Edward Island in February for the winter term reading week.

I sold flowers at a plant stand with the nicest bosses ever! They periodically bought us hot chocolate (or coffee) on cold, rainy mornings, and Iced Capps and Powerade on the hottest days. Plus on slow business days I could just sit among the flowers and read books, which was amazing.

I worked in a camp kitchen for three weeks, which was very hot and a lot of hard work, but it was also a lot of fun.

I helped out with orientation week for the first years at my university, which was like camp but with 18 year-olds.

I saw the little children’s choir I accompany double in size.

I wrote 18 midterms, 9 final exams, three major lab reports, one paper, and countless small assignments and quizzes.

I learned how to program in Java.

I became the proud owner of a baritone ukulele.

I became a die-hard fan of two book trilogies (Red Rising by Pierce Brown and CS Lewis’ Space Trilogy) and one amazing book series (The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch).

I became addicted to Brooklyn-99 and Grey’s Anatomy thanks to my next-door neighbour in dorm who has Netflix.

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You haven’t been the easiest year or the best year, 2016, but I do have a lot to be thankful for! The list above is a small snapshot of all the great adventures I got to have and all the things I got to do in the past 366 days.

May the Lord bless us and keep us in the next 365. May His light and love fill our hearts, and may we grow closer to him in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Here’s to 2017!

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Magical Creatures and How to Become a Hufflepuff

Blog friends!!! I am back home from a very busy semester at university. In celebration of exam survival, I splurged and bought myself the official screenplay of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them in the Toronto airport on the way home. It was a fantastic read (pun intended), so I figured I’d do you all the benefit of reviewing both the book and the movie right here on my blog.

Le Film:

I watched this movie with friends on opening night in the old fashioned one-room movie theatre downtown. The Vogue Cinema is an experience all by itself, but perhaps a post for another day. Anyways… I had mixed expectations going in. I wanted it tfantastic_beasts_and_where_to_find_them_postero be amazing and awesome and perfect in every way, but I was also very nervous about the movie just being a money-grab for the already massive franchise. I also was well aware that though it is set in the Potterverse, none of my beloved characters were likely to show up.

Despite my trepidation, Fantastic Beasts met all my wild expectations. It was sweet, heartwarming, intense, fast-paced, hilarious, and sad. The cinematography was beautiful, and the acting was awesome, especially Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Newt. I can hardly find words to describe how happy I am with the score. James Newton Howard did an amazing job of tying in the familiar motifs from the Harry Potter soundtracks with his own sweeping new themes. I’ll admit I got a bit teary-eyed when Hedwig’s Theme started playing over the Warner Brothers’ logo at the very beginning.

Overall, I’d give this movie a solid 4 stars. As far as Harry Potter movies go, it is one of my favourites. I’m also not complaining about the planned 4 more films in the Fantastics Beasts series. After seeing the first movie, I have confidence that they can pull the series off without the ideas getting old or cheap.

Le Book:

As I said earlier, I bought the screenplay of the movie in the Toronto airport when I was flying home for the holidays. It was a great investment, even though it was a fairly expensive impulse buy. The cover is gorgeous, and under the dust jacket the cover has a little golden niffler, which is absolutely adorable. I, like Ron, wish I had a niffler.giphy

Reading the screenplay was a lot of fun. It was like watching the movie all over again, except this time I could pause and go back and re-read things. I also picked up on a lot of really cool details that I didn’t even notice the first time I watched the film. I found the style a bit abrupt and distracting at first, since I don’t read a lot of scripts or screenplays, but once I was a few scenes in I was able to forget the format of what I was reading and become happily lost in the story itself. I’m glad I bought the screenplay, and I really want to read it and watch the movie again.

Les Spoilers:

DON’T READ PAST THIS POINT IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE YET!!!

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Consider yourself warned.

First things first, the big reveal that Mr. Graves was actually Grindelwald was not super surprising to me, partly because I’d already heard a theory that Grindelwald was going to be a main antagonist in the film. My suspicions that Graves was Grindelwald were pretty much confirmed when he gave Credence a deathly hallows pendant. Who else would give a kid a hallows necklace? Aside from maybe Xenophilius Lovegood. I wasn’t a fan of his overly pale appearance and bleach-white hair, since in the books he’s described as being reasonably handsome, but that is a pretty minor complaint.

My only quibble with the movie was how dark it was. Mary Lou’s abuse of her adoptive children was really disturbing, as was the stuff about obscurials. The idea of a dark force overtaking a child and causing them to murder people is truly horrifying. Also, the death chamber was seriously messed up. Graves’ ability to sentence someone to death without a trial is very bad. And yes, it was the 1920’s, and yes, Graves was actually Grindelwald so of course he wouldn’t have any qualms about killing two innocent people, but the two executioners who just merrily went along with it shows some serious corruption in the American magical government.

On a lighter note, my absolute favourite part of the whole movie is the scene where Newt and Jacob go inside Newt’s case. It is so wonderful, and all the creatures are super cool, and Jacob and Newt become friends and asdfasdfasdf it’s just so awesome! Does anybody else want to have a thunderbird? It’s like if Buckbeak could start thunderstorms! SO COOL! House Thunderbird for the win!

And now for some theorizing! Do you guys think that Credence was destroyed along with his obscurial at the end? Personally I think he is still alive somewhere. And that he is somehow related to Tina. Her son, maybe, or her nephew. Also, do you think that Ariana developed an obscurial? And how come Harry wasn’t one? He was abused and had to repress his magic just like Ariana and Credence.

On a slightly unrelated note, does Canada have a Ministry of Magic separate from MACUSA? I know Ilvermorny is THE North American wizarding school, which raises all sorts of questions about visas and immigration and studying abroad for Canadian witches and wizards, but surely Canada has its own M.O.M.. As a Canadian these are things I would really like to know.

Overall, Fantastic Beasts is a great story. An easy 4/5 stars, and a movie I highly recommend to any and all Harry Potter fans.

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