Icelandic Landscapes: Visual Creative Writing Prompts

Dear readers,

Today I thought I’d share a few photos from my trip to Iceland that could spark some ideas for new stories. These places are all incredibly special to me, and I go back to them in my mind whenever I need some clarity. I hope these photos can inspire some great scenes, settings, or even worlds in your stories.

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Laugarvatn. A rusty gate at the foot of a mountain. Lake up ahead. Cemetery on one side, and woods on the other.

 

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Swans fly over lake Tjörnin. Crisp air. Hands in warm pockets.

 

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Laugarvatn morning. Sunrise reflecting on a thawed patch of lake. Winter ending.

 

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Blurry Reykjavik after a snow storm. 10 o’clock in the morning. Empty streets. Overworked streetlamps. Days and nights roll into one another.

 

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Log cabin morning. Windows heated by the sun. Coffee and porridge.

 

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Herd of Icelandic horses. Smell of hay. Round bellies, well-fed. Soft fur, soft clouds, soft snow. Hard ice, numb nose.

 

As always, thank you for being here. I wish you all the best in your writing endeavours.

Yours,

Tamara Drazic

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Review: “Dreaming in Starlight” by Philip Elliott

 

Hi everyone,

Here is a short review of Philip Elliott‘s new book, “Dreaming in Starlight”. It’s so important to support new and up-and-coming writers, especially when their work is as special and as poignant as this.

 

“Dreaming in Starlight” is a book that I found myself wishing would never end, while at the same time, finding so much beauty in its brevity. The narrator, JJ, tells truths of life, love, and loss, using artful comparisons, spellbinding descriptions, and often surprising connections. The book is written in the form of letters from JJ, addressed to the people who have had an impact on his life. The unique form sets up the tone for the story, and emphasises the narrator’s loneliness, as well as his desire to belong without conforming. Philip Elliott’s prose is carefully constructed, yet exceedingly natural; unique, yet all-encompassing; and small, yet so large in scope.

I wholeheartedly recommend “Dreaming in Starlight” to any reader who also happens to be human.

For more information, and to purchase a copy of the book, head over to its Amazon page!

 

Yours sincerely,

Tamara

 

 

Is a Creative Writing Degree Really Worth It?

To anyone thinking about studying creative writing,

It’s 11 o’clock at night. I’m sitting here, having just submitted my last university assignment, scrolling through jobs on seek.com. Look, I’ll be honest; there aren’t many. In fact, where I really want to go, I haven’t even found one that’s just right. It’s scary to leave “the academy” after being a student for almost 17 years. First kindergarten, preschool, primary school, high school, and then uni. It’s scary to think that I have to leave this privileged safe-haven where I can work on my creative writing without having to hold down a full-time job.

During my studies, I have had so many discussions about whether or not creative writing degrees are really worth anything. Will that really get you a job? Do real writers really need a writing degree? Creativity can’t be taught, can it?

All I know is that the time I have dedicated to my creative work over these three years has made all the difference. This degree has given me the chance to go all in, and really get something down on the page. Something that I’m almost happy with (on a good day). Something that I’m going to finish at a writing residency on the other side of the world.

As well as this, I’ve also made connections with the most supportive and interesting people that I have ever come across. People who give up their weekends to write reference letters, and who do everything in their power to get you ahead. I can’t even count on my fingers the number of people who have offered to read my work and give me feedback, even for years after I graduate.

Studying a BFA in creative writing has improved my creative writing, and that’s all I was expecting from it. I chose this degree for the knowledge, rather than the qualification.

Maybe this degree won’t lead me to the perfect day job, and I’m not expecting everything to just fall into place. But the past three years have been the happiest and most fulfilling years of my life. For me, that makes it all worth it.

Writing Quote of the Day: Kafka on the Shore

Hello everyone,

I have around 10 thousand words due on Thursday, the same day as a proofreading exam, so this is going to be a very short post. I felt I had to update you though, because I think I may have a new favourite book. I’m currently reading Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore (let’s call it Kafka for short), and there are so many things about it that I just adore. I love Murakami’s stripped back style, mixed with the surrealism in his novels. It’s such an odd and fascinating combination, and I find that I’m enjoying every second of reading Kafka. As well as the intriguing style, the book is laden with really beautiful quotes that I want to write on my walls. I’m not going to because I’m renting, but if I had enough money to buy a house, that’s what I would do.

Here is one of my favourite quotes that makes an appearance quite early on in the novel:

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

– Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami

Have you read any Murakami? What do you think of his writing?

Thanks for reading,

– Tamara

My First Reading at a Literary Salon

Hello Everybody!

I apologise for being so absent lately; it’s week 10 of the university semester and I am well and truly in over my head. Something exciting did happen last Thursday though… I did my first ever reading at a literary salon. I was chosen to read three of my poems to a small but enthusiastic crowd at the Menagerie in Kelvin Grove. I felt the nerves all day, and no matter what I did, my poems wouldn’t stop playing on repeat in my head. I tried to read, but my brain-voice reciting my poetry drowned out Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Not even music could shut the poems up.

When it finally came to the evening, I had been at uni all day, and my nerves had kind of exhausted themselves. My house mates came to watch, and the other readers were my colleagues from my uni class, so the atmosphere was so comforting and familiar. It was a great experience, and although I flinched at the sound of my voice through the microphone at first, by the third line I felt just fine. I will be sure to share the link to the YouTube video as soon as it comes out.

As you may know, I’m going on a little trip to Melbourne on Wednesday, so I’ll definitely be posting about my time there.

Until then,

Yours truly,

Tamara Drazic

P.S. Submissions for Issue#2 of Spinebind magazine close in 6 days.

Writing Quote of the Day – Chekov

My lectures at university are full of great quotes by famous writers, and I always copy them into my note book so furiously that my hand starts to cramp. There’s so much to be learned from them, and the way that these writers word things always sheds light on a new aspect of the craft that I haven’t yet thought about, or fully understood. I thought I might start a little Quote of the Day series, in which I’ll share with you my favourite of the many writing-related quotes I’ve come across, either in a lecture or in my own research. Today in class my lecturer shared this great quote by the Russian writer, Chekov:

I’m not interested in answers, I’m interested in questions.

This quote accompanied a part of the lecture that discussed novels as expansion devices. They don’t have to have the answers to everything, but they should raise questions, and discuss them. In my lecturer’s words, they should expand the universe. Literature is a part of an ever-flowing discourse, and I find it so exhilarating that, as writers, we can have our say.

I hope you enjoyed this,

Yours Sincerely,

Tamara Drazic

Thursday Quotables: “Behind the Beautiful Forevers”

Hi everyone,

I’m taking part in “Thursday Quotables” this week! It’s hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies, and it’s basically an activity that gets readers and writers to share their favourite quotes from the books they’re currently reading. All the contributors then link up to create a treasure trove of priceless quotes, and a whole new to-read list.

books0212tharoorThis week I’m reading “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo. It’s a beautifully written book of non fiction that explores life in a Mumbai slum, and it has some incredible quotes, particularly in Abdul’s dialogue. Here is one of my favourites, where Abdul is convincing his parents not to marry him off:

“I hear of this love so often that I think I know it, but I don’t feel it, and I myself don’t know why,” he fretted. “These people who love and then the girlfriend goes away-they cut their arms with a blade, they put a cigarette butt out in their hand, they won’t sleep, they won’t eat, they’ll sing-they must have different hearts than mine.”

He told his parents, “You don’t hold a hot iron in your palm, do you? You let it cool. You think on it slowly.”

I haven’t quite finished reading it, but I’m definitely planning on writing a review once I’m done. Let me know in the comments which quotes from which books have stayed with you long after you finished reading them; I’d love to hear them!

Yours sincerely,

Tamara Drazic

Book Review: “A Visit From the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan

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Think old school rock n’ roll. Think corrupt music industries, secrets, bands, friendships, family relationships, and the strange interconnectedness that music brings us. “A Visit From the Goon Squad” is best served in an off-beat laneway cafè with a side of soft electric guitar.

I haven’t read many books that have affected me quite like “A Visit From the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan did. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest that you go out and pick up a copy right now. If I had to say what the book is about, I’d say it’s a satire on the music industry, but there is so much more to it than that. It reads almost like a collection of short stories; I’d heard about this before I started reading it, and it kind of put me off. I love reading individual short stories, but the thought of reading a whole collection back to back kind of exhausts me. Despite this, I thought I’d give it a go, and I’m so glad I did.

Each of the segments pretty much stands alone. So much so that the opening story, “Found Objects”, was published in The New Yorker as a short story back in 2008. When you read the book all the way through however, it really does feel like a novel. The stories interweave in just the right way – not too much, not too little. The crossovers are hidden in the minor characters, as the individual stories slowly reveal each character’s backstory until you realise how they’re all connected.

The book starts out following Sasha, a kleptomaniac who works for Bennie, a music producer. The subsequent story is then told from the point of view of Bennie, and so begins an intricate web of character relationships that spans years into the past and future, all the way until the epic, spec-fic ending. I’ve never come across a novel that brings together different genres into a literary work so flawlessly.

“A Visit From the Goon Squad” has a kind of melancholic, almost doomsday mood to it, but this is balanced out by the sharp humour and truly believable and lovable characters. The characterisation is so subtle but so precise, and when I finished reading the last page I felt like I’d lost touch with my childhood friends.

If you like stories about artists, families, music, and human nature, you should definitely add “A Visit From the Good Squad” to your to-read list.

Yours Sincerely,

Tamara Drazic

Good News – Getting Published

Hi everyone,

Today is a really exciting day for me, for two reasons. One, it’s my last day in Brisbane before heading off to Honolulu for two weeks (you can read about the trip on my lifestyle blog, https://tamarajoydrazic.wordpress.com/ ); and two, because I just found out that one of my poems has been picked up by a literary magazine. I can’t wait for the issue to come out around mid-December so that I can share it with you! The magazine is called Grouch Publishing, and it’s a young, online magazine based in Melbourne.

I love all of the stories and poems in the past issues, and I feel so lucky to be featured in the next issue. I haven’t yet published any of my creative work, so this is new to me. I’ve forced myself to stop rereading and picking at it. Now that it’s going to be out there, I need to accept that it’s actually finished. As a copywriter, my name was never put on any of the work I published, so seeing my name in the magazine is going to be a pretty big moment.

As you may have read in my post about dealing with rejection, I have submitted countless pieces of work, and up until today, they had all been rejected. If you are a writer that’s just starting out, please don’t get discouraged. You never know when your piece just fits.

Thank you so much for reading, and for supporting me along the way.

– Tamara Drazic

Dealing with Rejection

As a young writer, I have a pretty big collection of rejection letters cluttering my inbox. I’m a very sensitive person, but over the last two years I have developed what I like to call a writer’s shell. It lets the rejections bounce off of the outside, and lets me keep in all of my positive thoughts, ideas and creativity. Before I started regularly submitting work, my creativity levels were directly related to the feedback I received. If it was positive, I would write for days and have endless ideas; but if it was negative, I wouldn’t write anything, for fear of it not being perfect. As you can imagine, that way of thinking was extremely unproductive. I had to get out of it if I was ever going to get something published, so I decided to follow my own advice, and the advice of my amazing tutors and lecturers. Below are a couple of tips that I use to help me deal with rejection.

*Remember that it’s normal – After getting a couple of rejection letters in a row, it’s easy to start doubting your writing ability. You have to remember that rejection is just something that comes with the job. Every single writer has been rejected.

*Don’t take it personally – A lot of the time, your piece just doesn’t suit the other pieces in the issue, or the market at that point in time.

*Do keep improving – In response to the previous tip, it’s equally important to never stop learning and experimenting. If you’re getting multiple rejections, and you just keep sending out the same piece, maybe it just isn’t quite finished. Take advice, make drastic changes, and kill your darlings.

*Honour your rejection letters – Ok, so you don’t have to frame them and hang them on the wall, but I think it’s important to not just disregard your rejection letters. If the editors have taken the time to give you feedback, use it. Keep your version saved, but also make the changes that the editor suggested and see what happens. Even if it’s a generic letter with no feedback at all, keep it and remember what that particular literary journal or publisher does not want.

*Don’t compare your successes to those of others – You are on your own path to becoming a better writer. You have your own style, voice and goals. Try to be happy for fellow writers when they succeed. Don’t look at someone else’s success and think you will never achieve what they have achieved. Comparing is a sure way to kill your creativity.

*Write a blog post about how to deal with rejection – This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Remember that you are emotionally invested in your rejections because making it as a writer is something that is important to you. That means it is worth trying for. I know the feeling. I’ve also found that the closer your piece gets to publication, the scarier the thought of getting rejected is. One of my pieces is currently on a short list, and I feel like I’m going crazy. I don’t know if this feeling changes once you’re an established writer, with pieces in every major publication. For now all we can do it keep doing what we love to do, and just keep submitting.

Best of luck to all of my fellow writers out there!

– Tamara Drazic