Writing Exercise

 “Journal writing, when it becomes a ritual for transformation, is not only life-changing but life-expanding.”
– Jen Williamson.

A little writing warm-up is just the ticket to get you started. When you open your journal or notebook to a blank page, oftentimes you feel as if that blank page is like not knowing a destination to choose. Quite frankly, writing takes you on unexpected destinations. One of the best ways to get started -there are many- is by practicing with questions.

Grab your paper/notebook and preferred writing tool and let’s get started. First, begin writing the words below. Be sure to allow enough space to write your sentences.

Book

City

Mountain

Restaurant

Person

Movie

Start with the first word in the column, which is book. Write the title of the book you last read and your general thoughts on the story or the information you read. Then move on to, city. What was the last city you visited other than the one you live in? What did you do? Below is the selection of questions to answer for each word in the column.

Mountain: What is the name of a mountain you visited and explored? Write your experience.

Restaurant: What is the name of the last restaurant you ate at and were you with anyone? Write about that and what you ate. Was the restaurant busy? Describe the atmosphere.

Person: Who was the person you last talked to and what was the conversation about and feeling?

Movie: What was the title of the last movie you saw? Who were the actors who starred in the show? What was the movie about? Did you like it?

You can have a lot of fun with this writing exercise and there are endless basic topics like these to get you started. Whether you are a beginner writer or a seasoned one, this exercise is great for any level of writing. Who knows, you might find a story idea for a book inspired by the warm-up.

My wish is for you to be encouraged and inspired!

Stephanie

Discovering Lost Lists

Today’s List Not Lost, Yet

Lists are fun to write. Especially, lists about what you want to write about. My lists normally contain stories I want to write, blog posts, books I want to read, books to review, daily or weekly to-dos and so on… I try my best to keep the list updated, but not always. I actually skip a day or two. Okay, I’ve been known to skip a week or even a month. Yikes! I know. Is it unreasonable for me to say that we’ve all probably done that? Afterall, writers are known for their procrastination’s. I like to journal in the morning to start my day and sometimes I compile my list there. Not always, mind you. Months, even years down the road, I will find loose sheets of paper with lists on them scattered in odd places. I love organization but it is not my strong suite in a couple areas. Did I just write that out loud? Finding lists, you write years later in odd places is actually fun. When you read them, you’re either eye rolling, laughing or thinking how far you’ve come in your writing. Same goes for reading journals you’ve kept over the years. They’re always full of surprises.

Past written lists can even spark forgotten memories and give you more material to write about. Like this blog post for example. The list I found was one I write last September on a pink notepad and it contained blog post topics I want to write about. Did I accomplish those tasks? Err… not exactly but in my defense, I was busy making books to use as journals and paper-crafting. No time like the present to tackle that forgotten list. What is on that list, you ask. Well, I wrote about regular blog posts I used to post and new ones I wanted to start. For example, cover crushes. I loved writing about book covers that catch my eye and I’ve sorely neglected that series. I’m still in the thinking stages about bring that back and if there are any changes, I want to make to it. Other items on the list mentions daily blog posts, regular monthly themes of writing and crafting. I’ve also added to that list! I want to write more about my journey of continual education and what I discover on that-at times-rocky road. I have to remind myself to pace myself. There is so much material and I want to read and study it all at once! I want to know everything about everything. An impossible undertaking, I know. I digress.

Lists are important to me. Are they important to you? Do you relate to my thoughts on the subject? Have you found forgotten lists from years past?

Stephanie Hopkins

Book Titles that Stand Out

Not only does the design of a book help catch a reader’s eye but the title does as well. I’m drawn to clever book titles and how the writer decides what to caption the story. Often times, when I’m reading a book, I look for the phrase in the story or a situation that the writer was inspired to use to create the title.

Titles matter in the scheme of things when it comes to not only selling a book, but by giving a reader’s imagination of what is inside. What and how the story is weaved and so begins the world building.

In this post, I’m sharing three book titles I came across recently that has captured my interest. -Stephanie Hopkins

The Lost Chapter by Caroline Bishop

Pub Date May 3rd 2022 

England, present day.

At eighty years old, Florence Carter is content with her life. A widow in her twilight years, she spends her days making intricate lino prints in the company of her dog and cat, and her neighbors’ daughter Alice, a shy young woman troubled by a recent trauma. But when ​Flo learns that a long-lost friend has written a novel based on their time at finishing school, she’s forced to confront a secret from her past…

France, 1957.

In post-war Lyon, Florence and Lilli meet at a strict finishing school for girls. Florence—or Flo as she’s known—is a demure young Englishwoman who is expected to enter society and make a good marriage. Lilli, meanwhile, is a brash American with an independent spirit and thirst for adventure. Despite their differences, they forge a firm friendship that promises to last a lifetime—until a terrible betrayal tears them apart.
Now, as Flo reads Lilli’s book, she struggles to separate fact from fiction. Desperate for answers, she decides to take a road trip to France to find Lilli, and she invites Alice and her mother Carla to join her, in hopes the change of scenery will lift their spirits. But when they reach Lyon, it’s Flo who needs help as the buried truth from long ago threatens to overwhelm her.

The Lost Chapter is a poignant novel about the power of friendship and a beautiful reminder that it’s never too late to start writing a different story.

Hook Them or Lose Them (An Author’s Guide to Catching Readers on Page One) by D. Leitao

Pub Date 25 Apr 2022 

Description

Yes, you can hook your readers from page one.

This book is based on a workshop I gave a while ago. Even as I was preparing the workshop, trying to distill the essence of crafting hooky stories in simple, easy-to-understand concepts, I was amazed.

Nobody had ever explained this to me.

Most of the books and courses on writing and structure don’t really touch on that. Truly. You could do all the steps in Save the Cat and totally miss how to hook readers because this information simply isn’t there.

I realized I had found something special; an easy way to help writers identify what works and doesn’t for their beginning paragraphs, and how to get the readers hooked in their stories. And that’s why I’m putting it in this book; because I think my explanation can help writers.

When I say help, I truly mean help, I don’t mean tying writers down with another concept that might stifle their creativity. This book is not about sticking your writing into a box or following rigid rules. While it provides tips and techniques to help you craft stories that readers won’t quit, the advice is simple, easy, and flexible enough not to hinder your writing style or dampen your inspiration. Still, it should quench many of your doubts on whether your writing is hooky or not, so that you can spend more time creating and less time worrying.

I’ll also provide you with advice for beginnings and examples of efficient first paragraphs so that you’ll never again freak out wondering how to start your book. Instead, you’ll feel confident that you can hook your reader from the first page.

The Shell and the Octopus – A Memoir by Rebecca Stirling

Pub Date 26 Jul 2022

Description

This is the story of Rebecca Stirling’s childhood: a young girl raised by the sea, by men, and by literature. Circumnavigating the world on a thirty-foot sailboat, the Stirling’s spend weeks at a time on the open ocean, surviving storms and visiting uncharted islands and villages. Ushered through her young life by a father who loves adventure, women, and extremes, Rebecca befriends “working girls” in the ports they visit (as they are often the only other females present in the bars that they end up in) and, on the boat, falls in love with her crewmate and learns to live like the men around her. But her driven nature and the role models in the books she reads make her determined to be a lady, continue her education, begin a career, live in a real home, and begin a family of her own. Once she finally gets away from the boat and her dad and sets to work upon making her own dream a reality, however, Rebecca begins to realize life is not what she thought it would be—and when her father dies in a tragic accident, she must return to her old life to sift through the mess and magic he has left behind.

Spring Crafting Abundance

This past spring was a lovely time creating junk journals. I accomplished making four one signature journals in all. I’m thrilled with how they turned out and I have filmed YouTube videos on my process and flip-throughs. There are a few others where I showed how I work through the pages when decorating.

There are a few ways I journal and my process, is based on what I’m feeling at the moment or if I wanting to do more than just writing. Today, I’m sharing just a few links to the videos of my spring journal flip-throughs and working through the pages. I hope you take the time to watch them. My wish for you is to be inspired and encouraged. Please be sure to let me know in the comment area if you have any questions regarding these journals.

Spring Journal Links:

Note: I don’t believe I did a final flip-through with the first two journals but I have several videos working through the pages. So, you get a whole view of them while watching my process.

Spring Journal Flip Through | How to Cover White Pages 

Spring Journal | Working Through the Pages

Spring Journal | How to Make a Paper Weave 

Spring Journal | Let’s Make A Paper Circle Bellyband!

Spring Journal | Working Through the Pages 

Spring Journal Flip Through Part II

Spring Journal Flip Through Part III 

Spring Journal Flip Through Part IV

Thank you for watching my videos and please subscribe to my channel and don’t forget to hit the notification bell for video updates! My videos are geared towards paper crafting and the art of journaling. More videos coming soon!

Stephanie Hopkins

In the Moment of Writing

As someone who is an enthusiast journal writer and notetaker, I’m constantly thinking about my next page. What do I mean by that? When I’m thinking about my next page of writing, I’m thinking of the potential of the words that will fill that blank space. What will they say? What will I discover? I Imagine words slowly building and gradually increasing in speed as my mind suddenly unfolds with inspiration and thought. Those first few words tend to be a warm up or hesitate meanings of uncertainty. Writers shouldn’t be fearful to admit that or find fault with the admission. Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer and you are new to the craft. Even the seasoned writers must keep in practice or at times, they find it difficult to get those words down.

There are many books on writing and there are some great ones and not so great ones. I’ve read lots of them. Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind and Writing Down the Bones are without a doubt my favorites. Especially, Wild Mind (Living the Writer’s Life.) I can’t say enough about the book and the inspiration and encouragement it gives me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read its passages and each time, her words spark new ideas and excitement in the craft. As I’m typing this blog post, Wild Mind is sitting encouragingly right above my keyboard cheering me on. “Keep going, you’re doing great!” She shouts. I shyly smile and keep typing while my heart and mind fills with confidence.

Even if what you wrote is not the grit of what you want to express, keep writing and then maybe go back to it after it has had time to rest. Or, read it out loud and you’ll get a better feel for it that way.

Ask yourself what you want to write about. Is it a memory? A recent event, what you ate that day, or a personal experience? Whatever it is, get it down no matter how it reads on paper. After-all, if all you are doing is thinking about it instead of expressing it on paper, your writing voice will continue to stay locked up, undiscovered. Start writing today, start right now and you’ll open a whole new world. Stephanie Hopkins

Book Review: Educated by Tara Westover

About the book:

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter, she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

My thoughts:

While reading this story, I had immediate emotions but often times they were fleeting on particular themes as I read through the pages. My opinions vary on Tara’s family dynamics, her lack of formal education to being accepted at one of the most prestigious college in the world is strange to me. Not only that, but her troubles weren’t adding up. I guess I mean to say is that in context, her explaining or telling of trauma, oftentimes wasn’t making much sense. I understand that memories can be tricky and that is one of the reasons why when one reads memoirs, one must take that into account. After-all, when a situation evolving several people, you’ll often times come across different perspectives. Therein lies the problem I was having on the direction I wanted to go with this review. That said, after talking over it with a friend, I decided to direct my attention to the family’s or in Tara’s case, idea of what is a survivalist.

The Merriam-Webster definition of a survivalist: a person who advocates or practices survivalism.

especially: one who has prepared to survive in the anarchy of an anticipated breakdown of society…

More times than not, I hear people say or I read on social media that survivalists are nothing but a bunch of paranoid conspiracy theorist nuts. That couldn’t be further from the truth and in the case of Tara’s family, they’re not survivalists and I will get to why they’re not in the truest sense, shortly.

Life can throw many curve balls as we all should know by now but many choose to ignore! To name a few….

Weather: Hurricanes, ice and snow storms, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, mudslides, droughts, and so on…
Power outages
Loss of job and income
A sudden disability or injury
A neighbor or community in need.
Nuclear war or war in general. – Though I doubt the US would be nuked because our natural resources in this country are too valuable. An EMP is more likely. Just thinking out loud here.
Food and medical supply shortages
Wildfires
Inflation
EMPS
Economic recession or a great depression.

The reality is that you cannot fully depend on the government, their response time to crisis or the infrastructure as a whole to take care of you, nor should you. Consumers who are solely dependent on the establishment will not survive if the infrastructure fails and it is a real possibility that it will happen.

I believe our pioneers, even our living relatives that lived through the depression era in the early twentieth century, would look on us with disappointment and how spoiled, dependent and brainwashed we’ve become. Don’t mistake my harsh words as unkindness or a negative outlook on life but look at it as a teachable moment of awareness.  

Self-reliance is to be admired and it takes a lot of know-how, courage and strength to be thus. So, let’s get out of the mind set, if you’re a survivalist who lives off the grid as much as possible, or that you do for yourself and family, that you must be some uneducated extremist or belong to a cult. Some of the most intelligent and well-read, highly educated, level-headed people I know are survivalists. Also, there is a widely misconception that survivalists and preppers only live off grid and do not seek medical attention at hospitals or clinics. You’d be surprised on how many live in highly populated areas such as suburbs, cities and are actively participates in society.

Marginalizing survivalists or dismissing the need for self-sustaining or readiness and choosing not to be prepared for any type of emergency is a special brand of ignorance and dangerous to say the least. A good way to look at prepping, or having an emergency plan and knowing how to survive when the tough gets going is another form of insurance you shouldn’t go without.

The survivalists, in the truest sense, main priority is the well-being of their person and their love ones. We did not see this in Tara’s family’s case. Tara’s father does not fit the mold of a true survivalist, nor did he take into consideration the health, safety and education of his family. He was reckless, controlling, neglectful, abusive, narcissistic and sorely misguided and unwise in quite a few of areas. While a few of his beliefs about government, mistrust of the medical industry has merit, his reaction to them and how he dealt with it or lack of, is dysfunctional, toxic, dangerous and it is shown throughout the story.

There are too many shocking situations in this story to name and every single person’s role in this story left an unsettlingly feeling with me. Despite my misgivings, I’m glad I read this story and learned a great deal from it.

A big thank you to Lisl for sending me this book to read. It was quite an experience!

Stephanie Hopkins

A Better Understanding of Political and Social Controversies of Our Times

I’ve known about Thomas Sowell for a few years now and have listened to many of his interviews’ and recently started listening to his audio books on YouTube. I first became interested in his work on two scores. The first, his research on the history of slavery and two, his journey with Marxism in his twenties. His clear cut, intellectual thoughts are enlightening to say the least. He reacts on information rather than feelings. Sowell’s writings should be mandatory study in the school system.

His lectures on the history of slavery validated a passage I read on the subject over fifteen years ago. I was over at a friend’s house, scrap-booking and mentioned what I had read about slavery in Africa and the said “friend” proceeded to shut me down and was appalled at what I had stated. I was taken back by her reaction and to my dismay, I dropped the subject entirely. It is as if she thought I had some sort of agenda in what I said and refused to have an objective conversation. Though, I dare say, she did not have an intelligent response at anytime. In hindsight, I should have asked her about her sources and why she is dismissing my discovering.

I’m currently re-reading, The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx & Engels (which is pure propaganda in my opinion but an important to read) and have just started, The Naked Communist by W. Cleaon Skousen. After I read those books and finish listening to Sowell’s audio books, I want to purchase a few of his physical books for further study.

Here are the titles I want to acquire by Sowell:

Intellectuals and Society

Economic Facts and Fallacies

The Housing Boom and Bust

A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles

Black Rednecks and White Liberals

The Quest for Cosmic Justice

Bio:

Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social commentator, and author of dozens of books. He often writes from an economically laissez-faire perspective. He is currently a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In 1990, he won the Francis Boyer Award, presented by the American Enterprise Institute. In 2002 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal for prolific scholarship melding history, economics, and political science.

Sowell was born in North Carolina, where, he recounted in his autobiography, A Personal Odyssey, his encounters with Caucasians were so limited he didn’t believe that “yellow” was a hair color. He moved to Harlem, New York City with his mother’s sister (whom he believed was his mother); his father had died before he was born. Sowell went to Stuyvesant High School, but dropped out at 17 because of financial difficulties and a deteriorating home environment. He worked at various jobs to support himself, including in a machine shop and as a delivery man for Western Union. He applied to enter the Civil Service and was eventually accepted, moving to Washington DC. He was drafted in 1951, during the Korean War, and assigned to the US Marine Corps. Due to prior experience in photography, he worked in a photography unit.

After his discharge, Sowell passed the GED examination and enrolled at Howard University. He transferred to Harvard University, where he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. He received a Master of Arts in Economics from Columbia University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Economics from the University of Chicago. Sowell initially chose Columbia University because he wanted to study under George Stigler. After arriving at Columbia and learning that Stigler had moved to Chicago, he followed him there.

Sowell has taught Economics at Howard University, Cornell University, Brandeis University, and UCLA. Since 1980 he has been a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where he holds a fellowship named after Rose and Milton Friedman.

Bio and picture used from goodreads

Book Titles That Stand Out

Not only does the design of a book help catch a reader’s eye but the title does as well. I’m drawn to clever book titles and how the writer decides what to caption the story. Often times, when I’m reading a book, I look for the phrase in the story or a situation that the writer might have decided on to use.

Titles matter in the scheme of things when it comes to not only selling a book, but by giving a reader’s imagination of what is inside. What and how the story is weaved and so begins the world building.

In this post, I’m sharing three book titles I came across recently that has captured my interest.. -Stephanie Hopkins

The Messy Lives of Book People by Phaedra Patrick

Have you ever wished you were someone else?

Mother of two Liv Green barely scrapes by as a maid to make ends meet, often finding escape in a good book while daydreaming of becoming a writer herself. So, she can’t believe her luck when she lands a job housekeeping for her personal hero, mega bestselling author Essie Starling, a mysterious and intimidating recluse. The last thing Liv expected was to be the only person Essie talks to, which leads to a tenuous friendship.

But when Essie dies suddenly, a devastated Liv is astonished to learn of her last wish: for Liv to complete Essie’s final novel. But to do so Liv will have to step into Essie’s shoes, and as Liv begins to write, she uncovers secrets from the past that reveal a surprising connection between the two women–one that will change Liv’s own story forever…

The Myth of Perpetual Summer

Tallulah James’s parents’ volatile relationship, erratic behavior, and hands-off approach to child rearing set tongues to wagging in their staid Mississippi town, complicating her already uncertain life. She takes the responsibility of shielding her family’s reputation and raising her younger twin siblings onto her youthful shoulders.

If not for the emotional constants of her older brother, Griff, and her old guard Southern grandmother, she would be lost. When betrayal and death arrive hand in hand, she takes to the road, headed to what turns out to be the not-so-promised land of Southern California. The dysfunction of her childhood still echoes throughout her scattered family, sending her brother on a disastrous path and drawing her home again. There she uncovers the secrets and lies that set her family on the road to destruction.

Catching Broken Fish by Matthew Stewart Simon

It starts with understanding the paradigm of others and the words we choose.

More than ever we live in a world in constant conflict, and Christians are not exempt from the battleground. In fact, we are as broken as the next person, our own tragedies, mistakes, and poor choices shaping us, leading us to rely on Christ even more. As believers walking out our faith daily, facing our own challenges, we travel a road with weary and even lost souls-but that route is a target-rich environment for those who would use Christ’s message to revive God’s mission of grace on earth.

Blogger Matt Simon believes there’s a track to healing, and it begins with believers choosing to encourage, uplift, and offer words and acts of kindness to those who cross their paths. In his devotional Catching Broken Fish, based on Matthew 4:18, the author inspires each of us to step out of our comfort zones and to embrace being examples of God’s love. Using illustrations drawn from his own life as a farmer and school bus driver, Matt takes the reader on a humble trek of discernment and serving-products, he discovered, of his own failure and growth. He invites you to practice discipleship with him, no matter where you are in your life journey, in the belief that by uniting together in a goal to catch broken fish, we can change the destiny of the world.

Educated by Tara Westover

For those if you who follow my blog posts, you will know my first reactions to Educated by Tara Westover. I’m slowly working my way through this story while reading another book and have, in the last couple of days, introduced another book to my reading pile. My thoughts on the story unfolding vary and a few things have really stuck with me. For instance, how is it possible for Tara, without a high-school degree, to able to take the ACT and go to college? Maybe I am missing something here and she got her GED or High School Diploma. I’m not entirely sure and perhaps I should go back and reread a few passages. This is what I get for not taking notes this time around. Hmm… Maybe, it will be revealed how she was able to do so further on in the story. I’m still in the early stages of her study.

In my next blog post, I will be discussing two family members of Tara’s and an interesting theme in the story. -Stephanie Hopkins

About the book:

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter, she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

Spring Journals: Flip-Through and Pages

This year, I decided to participate in the #100dayproject on Instagram even though I craft and paint every day. That said, there was a few projects I wanted to complete including my spring journals, and felt this challenge would be a great motivator. The challenge is at an end but I’m still working through my spring journals. I am on the fourth one as I type this blog post. This particular post is about the third journal and I’m sharing two YouTube videos on the final pages and the flip through. I very much hope you watch the videos and all the others. My wish is for you to be inspired. Not only in crafting but in trying something new. -Stephanie Hopkins

 YouTube Video Links:

Spring Journal | Working Through the Pages

Spring Journal Flip Through Part III 

Thank you for watching my videos and please subscribe to my channel and don’t forget to hit the notification bell for video updates! My videos are geared towards paper crafting and the art of journaling.  

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