Scratch: Authors, Writing and the Art of Making a Living

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I knew I wanted to be a writer from the age of eight. That was when I wrote my first short story called Katie Goes to Butterfly Land about a girl who turns into a butterfly.

Fast forward to almost twenty years later, and I have a lot of writing credits in my repertoire. I attended college for journalism, where I wrote articles for the school paper and had some of my poems published in the college literary journal. I wrote more articles for my local newspaper and even some scripts for the broadcast news station at the internships I did. Lately though, I’ve been trying to branch out for paid opportunities to publish my work, with the ultimate goal of publishing a book. Wanting to learn more about it, I found Scratch, Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living.

Scratch is an anthology, compiled by writer Manjula Martin, filled with essays and interviews from various authors and writers. The focus is money in writing and whether it’s possible to make a living solely off of writing, a topic Martin feels is somewhat taboo in the literary world. The book is split into three sections: Early Days, the Daily Grind and Selling Out.

One of the qualities I liked about this book is how diverse the writers are. Instead of focusing on authors of just one genre, Martin included pieces from authors of young adult, nonfiction, fiction, thrillers, and so on. Each writer had their own opinion on money in the writing world, some say you still need a day job, while others say it is possible to scrap by on writing. Numerous topics such as ghostwriting, publishing, and agents are covered. They really show how multi-faceted the business of writing really is.

I found it fascinating to learn about how the writers decided they wanted to write, how they came up with ideas and the different ways they execute their writing processes. Each author has their own voice, some truthful, others humorous, some even using expletives. It shows that not every writer is the same and aren’t always afraid to show their true selves.

I definitely recommend this book for people who want to learn more about the business side of writing and what goes into it.

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Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song

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In early 2008, I was in the music room at my high school waiting for musical practice to start. A classmate of mine sat down at the piano and started playing a song with a catchy riff.

“What song is that?” I asked.

It was “Love Song,” by Sara Bareilles, though I didn’t know it at the time.

A couple of mornings later, I was getting ready for school when the same song came on my alarm clock radio. I immediately recognized the tune, soon learned its name and came to like it and Sara Bareilles a lot. Being a piano player myself, it wasn’t often that piano-driven songs became radio hits. “Love Song” is actually one of the first pop songs that I learned on piano, and I would even make a YouTube video tutorial of its riff. 

Sounds Like Me: My Life So Far In Song is a memoir of Sara Bareilles’ life from childhood to present time (the year 2015, when the book was released.) Each chapter is based around a certain song she wrote, hence the title. The songs are: “Once Upon Another Time,” “Gravity,” “Love Song,” “Beautiful Girl,” “Red,” “Many the Miles,” “Brave,” and “She Used to be Mine.”

A Northern California native, Sara had a pretty typical childhood. Her passion for the arts began with performing with her two older sisters, and she did community and high school theatre. Music also became a passion, and she learned to play piano and write her own songs. At age 18, she moved to Los Angeles to study communications at UCLA while continuing to write and perform on the side. I found this part of her story to be the most interesting. Unlike some other artists that start early, have famous family or are on a television show, Sara started small and worked her way up to the top. I’m not saying that those artists aren’t talented, but it was refreshing to read about a musician who had the full experiences of high school and college, as Sara was in her mid-20s when “Love Song” came to prominence.

The chapter I related to the most focused on her song “Red.” (And no, not the Taylor Swift song, though I admit I briefly thought about it.) This chapter is about her junior year of college, which was spent studying abroad in Bologna, Italy. She talks about eating too much food, visiting European cities and meeting people from all over the U.S. and country, experiences I immediately connected with. But Sara goes more into depth about what her inner feeling were like during that time, writing “I could only express a fraction of what my brain was thinking or feeling, and it felt like I was projecting a dulled sense of my own personality.” I loved how honest she was, because I feel like that’s something that everyone has gone through. She further elaborates on the “temporary” life of studying abroad, saying “I was living in a strange limbo world, not totally connecting with what was immediately around me, but still incredibly far from what I would be going home to.” I didn’t necessarily feel the same way during my studying abroad experience (which was only three months), but it definitely describes my feelings during the final few months of college. The time when all your years of schooling is really coming to end and realizing that all the connections you made might not endure.

This is the kind of memoir that I think everyone would enjoy because of its mix of candor, humor and seriousness and how it can translate into music.

Did I Mention I Love You? (DIMILY #1)

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While surfing the net one day, I came across a series written by Scottish author Estelle Maskame. The hook, she’s only 20 years old and has already written five books. Having liked The Duff, whose author wrote the novel when she was 17, I decided to check out Did I Mention I Love You?, the first book in the trilogy.

The protagonist is Eden Munro, 16 years old, who hails from Portland, Oregon. She lives with her mother; her dad walked out on them three years ago and moved to Los Angeles. When her dad invites her to the spend the summer in L.A., Eden decides to go, not necessarily to see him, but to get the chance to see what she knows as “the greatest city in the world.”

Once there, Eden meets her stepmother, Ella, and her three stepbrothers, Tyler, Chase and Jamie. Tyler, who’s her age, initially comes across as arrogant and unlikable. But something about Tyler’s attitude intrigues Eden, and she soon discovers there’s more to his story. The two soon deal with a growing attraction to each other, even though they are stepsiblings and Tyler is dating Tiffani. Throughout the summer, Eden makes new friends with Meghan and Rachael and explores the various neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a writer that was so young. Estelle wrote the series when she was only 13 years old and finished it by 16, which means she was writing about characters a year or two older than herself. The ability to capture the voice of someone chronologically older than you can be challenging since the maturity level and experiences of the character might be something you haven’t yet experienced personally.

I found Eden to be a pretty realistic character. I liked how Estelle went against the common cliche of a character immediately disliking her new stepfamily. Eden is unhappy toward her father for walking out on her and her mother, but gives Ella and her stepbrothers a chance. She’s nervous about meeting new people, but is open to forming friendships and experiencing new things. Her open-mindedness was refreshing. Tyler’s character might come across as the cliche bad boy, but his story has so many layers that it was hard to stop reading about it. I also found it interesting that Estelle had never been to Los Angeles and did all of her research about the city online.

There are a few parts of the story that I found a little unrealistic. Eden, Tyler and their friend group’s activities mostly consist of going to parties and shopping. I wish there had been more about what their other interests are, because it would have added some character development. We do see Eden’s hobby of running and Dean being a fan of a local band, but that’s about it. In addition, Eden and Tyler lie a lot throughout the novel about their whereabouts. It’s definitely not unusual for teenagers to be dishonest, but Eden’s dad and Tyler’s mom don’t seem to punish them that much. I know for a fact my family would be furious at me for lying so much, but that could just be my personal opinion.

The story of how the book came to be is an interesting story in its own. Estelle wrote the stories chapter by chapter and posted it on the online website Wattpad as a hobby, and it eventually turned into an internet sensation and earned her a publishing deal.

In conclusion, I recommend Did I Mention I Love You? because of the unconventional storyline and layered characters. I’m looking forward to see more of Estelle Maskame’s work.

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Image courtesy of Goodreads.com