• strict warning: Declaration of FeedsImporter::copy() should be compatible with FeedsConfigurable::copy(FeedsConfigurable $configurable) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/includes/FeedsImporter.inc on line 94.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
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  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsUserProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsUserProcessor.inc on line 195.
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  • You must include at least one positive keyword with 3 characters or more.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
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  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_field.inc on line 641.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_sort.inc on line 82.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
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  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 609.
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  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
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  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
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  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 770.

A New Year for Writers

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It would be all too easy to write a January 2018 post heavy with angst and uncertainty. I could dwell on the unsettling political changes of the last year or so, both international and domestic. I could ponder what kind of world we will leave for our children and grandchildren. I could talk about challenge and sorrow within our community of writers and among my personal circle. What illustration would I select for that post? A ship foundering on a reef, with captain, crew and passengers struggling in freezing waters, and not a gallant rescuer in sight? A pallid writer in a garret, surrounded by empty gin bottles and screwed-up manuscript pages?
But no, I won’t write that particular post, and the beautiful image above is one of hope. In the winter landscape, through the mist and cold, the sun rises once again, heralding a bright new day, a day on which we deal bravely and wisely with whatever comes our way. A day on which we celebrate every small positive step and remember the transcendent power of hope.
Easy to philosophize, you say. But how do we find hope in a world gone awry? How do we draw from the creative well when the weight of things feels almost too hard to bear?
I don’t offer easy answers. I don’t offer answers at all, only possibilities. The rest is up to you.

Firstly, let’s talk about reading. I don’t mind my stories dark, gritty and confronting. But to satisfy me, a story must contain some note of hope or learning – something positive, however small, that the reader can take away at the story’s end. If that is lacking I won’t re-read the book, even if it’s won a slew of international prizes or been feted by the most respected reviewers. Of course, fiction must contain its share of tension and challenge. Our characters cannot grow and develop if we make their paths too easy. As for so-called happy endings, any story, true or imagined, has its winners and losers. But I have little tolerance for a story that ends in complete despair and darkness; one in which all hope dies.
But, you ask, doesn’t the unrelieved grimness of those stories reflect the way things are for many people in the real world? And shouldn’t we, as writers, be opening the eyes of readers to those stark realities? Of course. That kind of writing is vital, and it’s done all the time by brave journalists reporting on famine, war, tyranny, and injustice, often at great personal risk. Their responsibility is to tell the truth. To open people’s eyes. Their work has the power to change the world.
As writers of fiction, we too can inspire change. The power of storytelling – to teach, to heal, to entertain, to draw people together with its magic – is immense. In dark and turbulent times, it feels to me more vital than ever to include that note of hope or learning in even our darkest stories. Kill off most of the characters the reader loves, if you must, but leave the world of your book better, or one of your survivors wiser, braver, or more ready to cope with the future as a result of their experience. Your readers will take that scrap of learning away with them. They may become a little wiser or braver themselves.
Our writer’s voice is our most powerful tool for spreading hope in the world. But we can practice and share hope in many other ways.  We can act within a small sphere of influence or a larger one. Hope grows in the most surprising places. Some suggestions:

  • Create a vegetable garden. No room? Grow herbs in pots. Share. Build community.
  • Plant a tree and look after it until it can survive on its own. Believe in the future.
  • Write letters to your political representatives, letting them know what matters to you. Press for change.
  • Exercise your democratic vote. Never forget how fortunate you are to have that right.
  • Read to your children. Read to other children. Nurture a thinking generation.
  • Join a political party you believe in. Make change from within.

And, of course, keep on writing. But don’t neglect self-care. Many of us finished 2017 exhausted and dispirited, and when you’re in that state, the creative flame burns perilously low. Give that flame a healthy body and mind to work in. Get enough sleep, eat sensibly, do an appropriate amount of exercise. Spend quality time with your family and friends. Find time to visit beautiful places. Hug and play with your dog, cat, or other pet(s) – their unconditional love has a great power to comfort and heal. You can’t fix the world right now, on your own. But you are a writer, and that means you can make a difference.
I’d love to hear your ideas for nurturing hope, whether it’s through your writing or in some other way.
Photo credit: ID 63127335 @alexugalek | dreamstime.com

About Juliet MarillierJuliet Marillier has written twenty novels for adults and young adults as well as a collection of short fiction. Her works of historical fantasy have been published around the world, and have won numerous awards. Juliet’s most recent series was Blackthorn & Grim, which one reviewer referred to as ‘Holmes and Watson in medieval Ireland’. The three Blackthorn & Grim books were published by Penguin Random House US and Pan Macmillan Australia. They are also available in audiobook from audible.com. Juliet is currently working on a new fantasy trilogy for adult readers, Warrior Bards. When not writing, Juliet is kept busy by her small tribe of elderly rescue dogs.
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"I wrote the rest of The Innocents Abroad in sixty days and I could have added a fortnight's labor with the pen and gotten along without the letters altogether. I was very young in those days, exceedingly young, marvelously young, younger than I am now, younger than I shall ever be again, by hundreds of years. I worked every night from eleven or twelve until broad daylight in the morning, and as I did 200,000 words in the sixty days, the average was more than 3,000 words a day- nothing for Sir Walter Scott, nothing for Louis Stevenson, nothing for plenty of other people, but quite handsome for me. In 1897, when we were living in Tedworth Square, London, and I was writing the book called Following the Equator, my average was 1,800 words a day; here in Florence (1904) my average seems to be 1,400 words per sitting of four or five hours."
Mark Twain

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Fast fact about writing

In China historians have found out a lot about the early Chinese dynasties from the written documents left behind. From the Shang Dynasty most of this writing has survived on bones or bronze implements. Markings on turtle shells (used as oracle bones) have been carbon-dated to around 1500 BC. Historians have found that the type of media used had an effect on what the writing was documenting and how it was used.