Ostriches, 200-year-old Fanfiction, and The Swiss Family Robinson

There’s a good chance that if I mention The Swiss Family Robinson you know what I’m talking about. This story of a castaway family has enchanted readers since its first publication in 1812. Even if you haven’t read a version, there’s a good chance you’ve seen or at least heard of one of the film adaptations.

I don’t remember if I first came across this story as a Great Illustrated Classics book or through the 1960 Disney film. I’m sure one led quickly to the other. Shortly after that, I found a more “grown-up” version of the book in my favorite book store. It was a 1968 edition that was about 12 tall by 8 inches wide, and the margins were filled with illustrations of animals and explanatory notes. I read it so much the book literally fell apart.Ostriches, 200-year-old Fanfiction, and TheSwiss Family Robinson | LikeAnAnchor.com

The Great Fanfic Conspiracy

When I started looking for a replacement copy, I realized this book was originally written in German and that there was more than one English version to choose from. This led to a startling revelation.

I had never read The Swiss Family Robinson. Read more

The INFJ Writer

I’m sure I read somewhere that David Keirsey originally called the INFJ personality type “The Writer” instead of “The Counselor,” but I can’t find the article now. Nevertheless, it does seem that quite a few INFJs are attracted to writing. Even if they aren’t working as writers or typing away at a novel, they probably keep a journal/diary and are often more comfortable with written communication than they are with speaking. I’m a fairly typical example of INFJs in this regard — I write a blog (obviously), keep a journal, work as a writer, prefer writing e-mails to taking on the phone, and write fiction.

Speaking of writing fiction …

Winner-2014-Web-BannerI won NaNoWriMo! I’m particularly pleased with myself for conquering the 50,000 words a day early in spite of having pneumonia in November. Anyway, back to INFJ writers.

Imaginative Fiction

There’s an INFJ profile written by Dr. A.J. Drenth (which no longer appears on his website, but you can read it here) that has this to say about INFJs:

Although INFJs are commonly drawn to music, visual arts, design, or architecture, writing may well be this type’s signature creative talent. Adept at channeling their right-brain creativity into a fluid and engaging left-brain storyline, INFJs are unmatched in their feel for and creative use of the written word.

from INFJ Doodles

This creative aspect of our writing  talent seems to be tied to an INFJ’s primary function — Introverted Intuition (Ni). Intuitive types prefer possibility to actuality, future to the present, intuition to fact, and improvement over the status quo. When intuition is introverted, as for INFJs, the focus is mostly on an internal world where our minds tinker with “ideas, perspectives, theories, visions, stories, symbols, and metaphors” (Dr. A.J. Drenth, Introverted Intuition).

Even INFJs who don’t write typically have an affinity for stories and a “rich inner life.” We tend to live in a world of possibilities, and I find that one way to keep my fantasy life anchored in reality is to turn those ideas into stories and write them down. It’s weakness/temptation for INFJs to never move their ideas from possibility to reality. With creative writing, I can set my imagination loose and tell myself there’s a practical application for it as well.

INFJs as Writers

It’s hard to type people when you don’t know them, but there are some famous writers that we can guess were INFJs. Keirsey lists Emily Bronte and Emily Dickenson as “Counselor” types. Another list of famous INFJs adds writers like Chaucer, Dante Alighieri, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. A forum discussion suggests Madeleine L’Engle, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Lois Lowry, Ursla LeGuin, Franz Kafka, and several others could be added to the list.

my latest novel, laid-out in Post-It notes above my bed
my latest novel, laid-out in Post-It notes above my bed, with a different color for each point-of-view character

Now, the fact that many INFJs gravitate towards writing doesn’t mean that it’s always easy for us. I’m not sure how many stories I started and abandoned before finally finishing my first novel in 2011. It was for NaNoWriMo, and I needed that deadline to keep myself writing. It’s so easy to build the story in my head, and then lose interest in writing it down once I think I know how it ends.

Though knowing the end makes me lose interest in the story, I also need some kind of outline to keep me on track. I’ve discovered sticky notes on the wall is my new favorite way to plot-out novels. They can be removed or rearranged as needed, and you don’t need to have them all there to start writing. For my NaNo novel this year, I began with only half the plot laid-out, and added more scenes as I wrote and the direction of the story became clear.

Further Reading

Why INFJs Have Trouble Writing by Lauren Sapala

The INFJ Writing Personality: Eloquent Vision by Andrea J. Wenger

A Trip to the Zoo

I have two reason why you’re getting a rambling post about how I spent yesterday rather than a nice, neat article:

1) NaNoWriMo

50,000 words in 30 days = one novel, and not much sleep. I’ve done it twice before, and I’m trying again this year with a Young Adult novel full of super humans (click to visit my writer’s website). I’m prepared with enough Lindt hazelnut truffles to reward myself every 5,000 words (plus a few extras, just in case).

2) Zoo Day!

Months ago we got half-price tickets to the Columbus Zoo, and just never seemed to find time to use them. Then we realized they expired in February, and it wasn’t getting any warmer, so we went yesterday. It was so cold that most of the South-Asian and African animals weren’t out, but the predators were very active.

Amur leopards
the Amur leopards were moving too fast for my camera

Very, very active, in some cases. The brown bears were chasing each other all over their exhibit, my family saw a tiger try to pounce on one guy through the glass, and there was a cheetah stalking a child being pulled in a wagon.

brown bears
huge brown bears

We also saw an extremely rare creature — an awake koala. They sleep 22 hours a day if given the chance, and I think this is the only time I’ve ever seen one moving.

hungry koala

I’d say the dinosaurs were even more rare, but they weren’t moving much. Didn’t even try to snatch a tourist out of the boat ride, so I suspect they were animatronic.

it's a dinosaur
It’s a dinosaur!

The aquarium in Columbus might not be huge by public aquarium standards, but it’s certainly one of the most impressive at a zoo. I love the manatees. Columbus and Cincinnati are the only aquariums in the U.S. outside of Florida that help with manatee rescue and rehabilitation.

Stubby can’t be released into the wild because of propeller damage to her fluke and an autoimmune disease that affects her skin

And last but not least … I found a yurt!

yurt, a.k.a. one of the cutest structures known to man
yurt, a.k.a. one of the cutest structures known to man

Buying More Books

marissabaker.wordpress.comBefore I get into the subject of today’s post, I won NaNoWriMo! I hit the 50,000 word mark last Wednesday night. I think that puts me about 2/3 of the way through my plot outline, so I didn’t technically write a novel in a month. Still, 50,000 words is pretty impressive, if I may say so myself.

I have a fairly large library. Just over 1,100 books in total, according to the list I keep on my computer (I’ve been told this is “too many books” but I’m not convinced there’s any such thing). Even so, I’m constantly buying new books. The problem is, I have a limited book budget. That doesn’t mean I have to stop getting new books though. Here are some of my sources for finding more books without spending too much money.

Paper Back Swap

This is an amazing website: PaperBackSwap.com.  You post books you want to get rid of (yes, that sometimes happens), and when other members claim them you get a credit that can be used to request posted books. The only cost is shipping out books to other members. Unfortunately, many of the books I want have wait lists, but even so I’ve received enough books that the website estimates I’ve saved $84.17. Not too shabby. And I have 16 credits for whenever my wishlist books become available.

Trading Book Stores

"Buying More Books," tips for economically growing your library. marissabaker.wordpress.comThere is a wonderful trading bookstore not half an hour’s drive from here that sells new and used books. My favorite way to approach this store is to turn in books my aunt no longer wants on her shelves, and then bring home books for me 🙂 That’s how I found books like my hardcover edition of Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island, several fairy tale volumes, and where I bought my first Reader’s Digest World’s Best Reading edition (not to be confused with those Reader’s Digest condensed book collections).

Library Book Sales

My local library has a book sale once a month. For a small fee, I’m a Friend of the Library and can get into the member pre-sale. Books sell for between $.025 and $1.00. Some months I buy nothing, sometimes I can hardly carry them all back to the car. If you don’t know when your local book sales are, try checking BookSaleFinder.com.

For Specific Books

For general book shopping, the three resources above are great. But if I’m looking for a specific title or edition. Amazon and Half.com are my go-to sites. If I want the book store experience, there’s three Half Price Books within about an hour’s drive.

Is there anywhere else you’d recommend looking for books to economically increase the size of your library? I’d love to hear your ideas. Also, if you have any ideas about finding more room for books, I’m starting to run out of space on my bookshelves …

100th Blog Post

Today is less of an article and more of a collection of random ideas that popped into my head while wondering what to write for my 100th post. I actually wasn’t going to commemorate the 100th post, but I needed a topic today other than panic about how I’m going to finish this novel before the end of the month. My deadline is actually 5:00 pm on November 29th, since I don’t write on the Sabbath and I’m spending the evening of November 30th at my cousin’s house for a Sherlock marathon where she intends to win me over to tea-drinking. It started as a “Marissa must drink tea” intervention, and I suggested that such a thing must be accompanied by British television.

I suppose I’ll take this opportunity to announce my plans for my 111th post coming up in mid December. Since it’s right before The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug is released, I thought I’d make my “eleventy-first” post a Lord of the Rings Myers-Briggs chart in the style of that Star Wars MBTI that has been going around Facebook. It harder than I thought it would be. Tolkein seemed to write an unusually high proportion of introverts into his stories.

Also, on a completely unrelated note: HAPPY BIRTHDAY DOCTOR WHO! Saturday was the 50th anniversary, and the airing of a very special episode called “The Day of The Doctor.” If all goes well, I’ll be seeing it tonight at the cinema. I loosely group the TV series I watch into “I like them” and “I’m a fan,” and Doctor Who is one in the later category (along with Sherlock and Star Trek).

My Favorite Fantasy Books

"My Favorite Fantasy Books" marissabaker.wordpress.comI’m writing a fantasy novel for NaNoWriMo this year, and since I have that genre on my mind, I thought I’d share a list of my favorite fantasy books. Maybe someday the novel I’m writing will be on another blogger’s favorite books list.

Books In No Particular Order

Concerning Hobbits

Though it is often considered childish compared to The Lord of the Rings, and I’ve heard that Tolkein wished he’d had time to re-write it, The Hobbit is my favorite book by J.R.R. Tolkein. I love all the books of Middle Earth for what Tolkein can teach me about writing fantasy, but just to sit down and enjoy reading a book I pick up The Hobbit.

“It’s all in the wardrobe just like I told you!”

childrens_storyThe Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are a few more “children’s books” that I didn’t read until I was in my late teens, and not all at once. I think I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when I was 16, then The Magician’s Nephew, and finished the series a few years after that. I suppose it is fitting that I didn’t appreciate Narnia until I was older, since it was C.S. Lewis who said, “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

I’m Okay With Corlath Kidnapping Me

I mentioned The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley on my previous book list, but it belongs on here as well. I like the way McKinley handles magic in this world, the lore she weaves through the story, and the strong characters she creates. Some of the most interesting characters are not even human — the heroine’s incredible war horse and a hunting cat named Narknon.

How To Melt Wizards

I don’t hesitate to laugh-out-loud when I’m reading books, and The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede kept me giggling most of the time I was reading. I received some pretty puzzled looks from my family, until my sister read the four books and laughed almost as much as I did. The first book, Dealing With Dragons, is the best, and features a princess who asks a dragon to take her captive so she can avoid marriage, then proceeds to chase off all the princes who try to rescue her.

Dancing Bears

The Shadow of the Bear by Regina Doman is the first in a series of modern fairy tale retelling. It’s based on “Snow White and Rose Red.” Bear (aka Arthur Denniston) is one of those fictional men I fell in love with as a teenager the moment I read the scene where he dances with Blanche. I also really like the cover art for the first edition.

“True love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops.”

If you like the film The Princess Bride, you’ll love the book by William Goldman. I recommend the 30th Anniversary Edition, so you can read Goldman’s introductions. He talks about being on-set for filming (which was, of course, done on location in Florin). It can be fun trying to figure out what actually happened and what didn’t (and whether or not it really matters).

McKinley Fairy Tales

Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley is my favorite “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, and is also the only novel of hers that I’ve thought had a thoroughly satisfying ending. Her retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” Spindle’s End, also deserves an honorable mention just for the fact that magic in that world is so thick and tangible they have to dust if off the kitchenware before cooking.

Visionary Fiction

A Sword For The Immerland King, by F.W. Faller, is the book that introduced me to “visionary fiction.” His website defines it this way:

a fiction, stated as fact to allow the reader to explore the greater life issues in the safety of a good armchair, to wonder at their own shortcomings and marvel at the confidence of others who inspire them to vision and purpose in their own lives. It is allegory and truth rolled together in a plausibility that transcends time and space and gives us pause to ponder who we are and where we are going.

What Faller does with his world of Tessalindria reminds me of Tolkein’s work with Middle Earth, and what I’m hoping to do with Ves’endlera.

An Oracular Pig

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, follow the adventures of an assistant pig-keeper named Taran. It spans five books and is, I suppose, technically another series of children’s books. One of the most interesting things about these novels is that they are based in part on Welsh legends. The author uses some names from the original legends and hints of Welsh geography (which he warns is “not to be used as a guide for tourists”), then inserts main characters born out of his own imaginings.

Worlds of Ink

Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath are the three books in the Inkworld series by Cornellia Funke. Setting aside the great fantasy content for a moment, these are beautiful books. Each chapter begins with a quotation and ends with a sketch. They are books about books, with main characters being read into the real world and back into books and blurring the lines between reality and fiction.