Oct 24, 2016

Coffee and Cake: Café Art

It's coffee time again. This time we tried Café Art, right in the centre of Turku, on the bank of the river Aura. It's in a beautiful historical building, and if you happen to get a table by the window, it's a perfect place to people-watch. The café also shows work by local artists, and you can browse paintings while enjoying your coffee. Right now they're showing Mari Pyykkönen's work, beautiful paintings with sea creatures both real and fantastical. (Show ends at the end of October.)

Café Art is definitely a place to try the coffee instead of tea; they've won the Barista of the Year award seven times so far. The café looks small from the outside, but they've got plenty of seating in the back. I really liked the feel of the place, like it would be a nice spot for writing. I actually saw a few people with laptops, and one of my friends said she sometimes comes there to write.

You can also buy coffee beans from a local roastery, Turun kahvipaahtimo, there. 

I'm no expert, but I thought the coffee was good. I even bought a bag of dark roast for Hubby. The barista did that thing where they make a leaf pattern on the coffee with the foam. It was really pretty until I fumbled with the cup and spilled coffee all over the counter. (Yup, I'm very graceful. Also elegant and understated. Not.) The carrot cake was nice, too, and my friends liked the mousse cake they ordered.

A lovely café, where writerly types will feel right at home.  

Here's the address: 
Läntinen rantakatu 5
20100 Turku

Opening times:
Mon-Fri 10-19
Sat 10-17
Sun 11-17

Oct 21, 2016

The Alice Scarf

If you haven't noticed yet, I love Alice in Wonderland. I've been eyeing the Storiarts webshop for a while now, and as the days are getting colder, I decided to splurge on a new scarf. They have all kinds of cool stuff, everything from Austen to Poe. The Raven scarf is also beautiful, but somehow  I prefer the book-like look of this one. And did I mention they have writing gloves. Writing gloves, people! Why hasn't anyone invented those before?

Oct 19, 2016

How Writers Write Fiction: Storied Women 1

How Writers Write Fiction is here again, and this time the focus is on women. The instructor for us speculative folk is Cat Rambo this year, yay! If you want to join in the fun, there's still time; the course started last week.

This first week we discussed character building. Margot Livesey shared an interesting rule she uses: a writer should always give the character something that she shares with her and something she doesn't. Also, a likeable character should always have a flaw, and an unlikeable one should have some virtue or strength. We also talked about building characters from inside out vs. outside in. Livesey said she usually builds the characters who stand in for her (the doppelgängers) from the inside out, but the other characters from the outside in. How similar she is to the character affects her choice.

Another good tip, this one from Cate Dicharry, was that you have to be not only specific in your character descriptions, but also particular. What do you mention? What is important?

Ukamaka Olisakwe told us about her process. She always finds a real life person and takes her attributes, looks, and gestures to embody a character. Olisakwe isn't using that person in the story, but rather borrowing her to act out the story. She calls it a "soul transfer." Before everyone reading this decides to never speak to their writer friends again, don't worry; the technique isn't about putting you in the story, exactly, it's just borrowing your nervous smile or the way you tug your hair when you're angry to bring life to a character.

Another thing we talked about was likeability. Does a character have to be likeable? There is a difference to how male and female characters are perceived: women are expected to be likeable, for some reason, while a similarly flawed male character is applauded as "dark" and "complex." The bottom line was that writers shouldn't be afraid of writing unlikeable women. Hear, hear!

The issues of cultural appropriation and writing characters different from you also surfaced. Good timing, because I've been thinking about those a lot. (see last week's post on Writing the Other.) Nobody can really give you a straight answer on this, but most seem to agree that when you write a character different from you, you have a responsibility to think about these issues and to do your research.

Our assignment for the week was to write a scene or story from the perspective of a female child. I also made mine an alien:)

Oct 18, 2016

Whitmanthology is Live!

Remember that Whitman anthology project I was talking about?

Here it is, available for free at Lulu.com.

Here's more info from the site:

"Whitmanthology” brings a collection of writings with authors from all over the world inspired by “Whitman’s Civil War: Writing and Imaging Loss, Death, and Disaster”- MOOC course held by the University of Iowa in 2016. With a “Forward” by Professor Christopher Merrill, the Anthology aims to bring peace and hope in a world filled with war and pain.

There are two of my pieces in it, as well as work from many other authors from all around the world. Feel free to check it out.

And a big thank you to Monica Mastrantonio for making it happen!

Oct 17, 2016

Art, Alice, and Assorted Weirdness

I was in Helsinki this weekend for the Alice in Wonderland ballet and had some time to kill, so I ended up at Kiasma, the Helsinki museum of contemporary art. Kiasma is a great place to seek writing inspiration, because there's alway something weird going on. 

Untitled by Juul Kraijer

On to the weirdness. Look closer at the curls on the lady's head. Yup, that's right. They're ears. 

Emerging Thoughts by Anna Estarriola

Yes, and this thing was beyond creepy. It's a giant knitted cap with a hole in it. Inside, you see all these wigs, like the backs of people's heads, and when you lean in, they start to whisper. *shudder*

They also had an exhibit by Mona Hatoum that had hanging barbed wire and empty cages they use at fur farms, and a person-sized cheese grater. Really unnerving. Didn't really like that one, but I got a feeling I wasn't supposed to. Not that kind of exhibition. 

The Finnish National Museum's on the way to the Opera house, so I stopped in to check out the exhibition of Renaissance art they have running until January 15th 2017. Quite small, but beautiful pieces. I like portraits, because it's fun to imagine what the person they're depicting was like. (And you can use them for character building, if you're a writerly type.) 

The Gentleman in Pink by Giovan Battista Moroni

Isotta Brembati by Giovan Battista Moroni

Count Martinengo by Moretto.

Then it was time for the ballet. The sets and costumes were beautifully done as always, but the show felt a bit meh. The beginning was quite slow, and there were long intervals without music. That miming thing the dancers do looks ridiculous without sound. You could hear the thumps of their footsteps on the set. Awkward.  I did like the tea party scene and the Red Queen and the playing cards, and the bit where Alice went to wonderland was well done. You can watch it through Opera Live on Saturday the 29th of October, if so inclined. 

I did enjoy these themed macaroons, though. 

After the show I headed for the Linnanmäki amusement park, which is just a fifteen minute walk away. They're doing a carnival of lights before closing for winter. I rode the ferris wheel and ate cotton candy that had a glow stick inside. It was like eating a storm cloud. The park is still open until Saturday the 22nd, when the festival ends with a firework display. 

Those red lights reminded me of Spirited Away. Magical. 

Pretty lights.

I love these old, creepy statue things. Very Tim Burton.

More pretty lights.

Light-up hula-hoops!

Looking for that creepy carnival feel? Look no further.


The view from the ferris wheel was beautiful. You can see for miles. Definitely go if you're not afraid of heights. 

Oct 14, 2016

DIY: Nightmare before Christmas Kitchen Jars

This is an old DIY, but it's so Halloween-y that I thought I'd share it anyway. These are actually prototypes for two bigger ones that I made for a friend's birthday present. It's just two ceramic pots I got at a flea market covered in modelling clay. I tried the plastic kind, but it was really hard to use, so I just used the normal stuff and let these air dry. Then I painted them with a rock texture paint from the local craft store. The paint had little grains in it, which makes the surface even feel rock-like. The details I did with a toothpick while the clay was still soft. The paint is water based, so you can't wash these, but wiping with a wet cloth is okay. 

This is a super easy project, maybe a few hours in total, not counting the time it takes for the clay and paint to dry. Plenty of time to finish before Halloween, if inspiration strikes you.

Oct 12, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: Words for Otherness

The word other is from Old English oþer "the second" from PIE  an-tero, the other of two, still seen in the Swedish andra, but in English this meaning was removed to avoid ambiguity, replaced by the word "second." The meaning of "different" is from the 1300s. There are lots of words for otherness, with different connotations, but most of them boil down to the fear of the foreign.

Alien comes from the Latin alienus, belonging to another race, which goes back to alius, "another."

Strange is from Latin extraneus, "foreign, external, from without." It made its way into English through the Old French estrange.

Weird is a fun one. It comes from Old English wyrd "fate, chance, fortune" and the etymology goes back to the Norns (see Old Norse urðr). The PIE root *wert-, to turn, to wind, is the source.

Odd originally meant "constituting of an unit in excess of an even number." The literal meaning is from Old Norse odds,  "point of land, angle." The sense of "strange, peculiar" is from the 1580s, as in "odd man out, unpaired one of three." Odd job also comes from his, as in "not regular." Oddball is also of the same origin, from an a adjective first used by aviators in the 1940s.  (I couldn't find out more about what the aviators used it for, if anyone knows, tell me in the comments.)

Foreign goes back to the Latin foraneus, "on the outside, exterior,"  from foris, "out of doors."

Queer as in "strange, peculiar, eccentric," is from Scottish, perhaps related to German quer "oblique, perverse, odd," from Old High German twerh "oblique," from PIE root *terkw- "to turn, twist, wind" The sense of "homosexual" is from 1922.

Let's end with a positive one: extraordinary. It's from Latin extraordinarius, "out of the common order." We can thank the French for the word's colloquial use as a superlative.