Great Authors

Just What You Need: A Weekend Poetry Read

Happy Birthday to world famous poet Margaret Atwood!

Rhyming is one of the first forms of written expression that we learned growing up. In elementary school, we were asked to write poetry about our friends, family and pets. We all smiled at our glad Dads and cats on mats. Valentine’s Day taught us that roses are red and violets are blue. Dr. Seuss made sure that we all knew, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” In our teen years, we secretly wrote poetry about loneliness and heartache, but would never have admitted it to anyone. We argued that our favorite musician is today’s Shakespeare. We memorized a wide variety of the all encompassing genre of “Poetry”, including “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” and “In West Philadelphia, born and raised, on the playground is where I spent most of my days”.

Becoming a famous poet is no easy feat. Sure, anyone can rhyme. Trust me, I do it all the time. However, poetry is often very personal, making it extremely difficulty to accurately express emotions without either a) being too cheesy, or b) excluding the reader. Poetry connoisseurs are a very critical audience; either they love a poem or they hate it. Most acclaimed poets are also novelists, journalists or musicians because writing poetry is often thought of as being a hobby, or a side project. Therefore, nothing makes me happier than seeing a published book of well written poetry because if you can do it, so can we!

Before I give you my poetry recommendations for the weekend, I want to impart these words of wisdom from novelist Franz Kafka:
“In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it’s the exact opposite.”

For Sale:

Tonya Renee McRaft has created a compilation
of poetic stories that were written for the reader’s
enjoyment. Inspired and created from her own
experiences and imagination.

For Free:

Talented illustrator Anja Uhren has created
an expressive and provocative poem about the
problems lying “underneath” the fashion industry.

For Fun:
My favorite beat poetry video from So I Married an Axe Murderer: The Woman Woman Poem.

Happy Birthday, Bram Stoker!

Too bad Bram Stoker lacked immortality like the vampires he wrote about. If he were alive today, Mr. Stoker would have been 165 years old. Known mostly for his portrayal of vampires in Dracula, Bram Stoker possessed a passion for writing supernatural fiction. If you’ve never taken the time to read the aforementioned dark classic, now is the perfect time to do it. Don’t cheat and watch the movie, either. Doing that would only serve you right, as it’s possibly one of the worst film adaptations made. It’s hard to tell which is worse, the accents or the acting. Regardless, do yourself a favor and download Dracula on your eReader.

If you find yourself in London, you can visit Bram Stokers ashes at the Golders Green Crematorium. According to Wikipedia, “visitors must be escorted to the room the urn is housed in, for fear of vandalism.”

If you have an interest in supernatural fiction, check out this collection of short stories by Xicano Sol.

Enjoy a journey of spiritual awakening with three short stories that unveil the reality of the supernatural. Whether it’s a simple talk over breakfast that ends in a trance or a nightmare that combats sinister darkness, these real life stories promise a glimpse of another world rarely seen.

There and Back Again: The Birth of an Epic Classic

The Hobbit was first published on this day (September 21st) in 1937, making it 75 years old today! Due to favorable reviews, the 1,500 original copies sold out by December.

The original Dust cover - artwork by Tolkien himself.

Cover art from 1976

Cover art from 1976

Cover art from 1999

Cover art from 1999

Cover art from 2003

Cover art from 2003

When I first started reading The Hobbit, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. All I knew was what my friend, Laura, said to me, “You haven’t read The Hobbit? You need to read it right now.” And so I did. For those of you who have read it, you’ll know the power it holds over its reader. You become fully immersed in Middle Earth, in awe of everything Bilbo is introduced to (mostly unwillingly), and can even feel your stomach starting to growl when he goes on and on about the contents of his pantry cupboards. Just like in The Lord of the Rings, we are surrounded by a wide variety of characters: dwarves, elves, hobbits, goblins, giant eagles, men, and even some familiar characters – Elrond, Gandalf, Gollum, and of course Bilbo. Oh, and did I mention the dragon?

My first reading took place way back in 1999; two years before the first LOTR film was released. In order to satiate my hunger for visuals, I watched the original, cartoon version from way back in 1977. What an amazing time the 70s must have been – you have to see it to believe it.

I honestly don’t even know why I’m telling you about it, go read it for yourself.   And you’d better hurry, you have to read it before the movie is released… But don’t worry, you only have to read the first half of the book because it’s been split into two feature films: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again.

Gandalf and Bilbo in front of Bag-End

Gandalf and Bilbo in front of Bag-End

Did you know?
Some fun facts about The Hobbit:

In the original edition, Gollum willingly bets the ring and parts amicably from Bilbo.

Bilbo Baggins was 51½ years old when he leaves on his initial adventure, and Elrond was already thousands of years old.

The Hobbit takes place 60 years before The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien had an aunt whose farm was nicknamed Bag-End.

There are three main kinds of hobbit: Harfoots, Fallowhides and Stoors.

The Misty Mountains are about 1440km long – nearly the length of New Zealand!

Tolkien never mentioned elves having pointed ears.

“We all go a little mad sometimes.”

Image from

Image from

With a successful career spanning over half a century, we’d be truly ungrateful movie fans if we didn’t acknowledge the birthday of: Alfred Hitchcock (August 13th, 1899 – April 29th 1980).  With a combined degree in Film Studies and Art History, I’ve studied everything from Hitchcock’s voyeuristic camera angles right down to the psychoanalytical theory surrounding his films.  Hitchcock is an inspiration to all film students and we rarely grow tired of talking about him.

For many, Hitchcock is known as the creator of psychological thrillers, the ever popular genre that spawned Fatal Attraction, The Usual Suspects, Se7en, and Silence of the Lambs.  Hitchcock directed more than 50 feature films and greatly shaped the filmatic world that we see today.  His lonely childhood, and his interest in the wrongfully accused (when he was only 5 years old, his father sent him to a police station to be imprisoned for 10 minutes due to bad behaviour), inspired the themes used most often in his films.  He even started out with a career as a writer – his first published story “Gas” (1919) tells his readers about a woman who thinks she is assaulted one night only to reveal at the denouement that she was really hallucinating from the anaesthesia given to her at the dentist.

While it may be possible that you’re unfamiliar with “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” and you’ve never seen The Birds, North by Northwest or Strangers on a Train, there is no way you could have escaped Psycho or Rear Window. Even if you’re a scaredy cat like I am, unable to sit through any sort of horror film without breaking into a sweat, you will still be familiar with at least some aspects of the infamous shower scene from Psycho (1960).  Psycho was remade in 1998 under the same title, starring Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates.  Director Gus Van Sant did not veer far from the original masterpiece when filming the updated version. When Van Sant was asked “Why in the hell would you want to do a shot-by-shot remake of Psycho in color?” He calmy replied “So no one else would have to.”

Rear Window (1954) was also remade in 2007 with the modern, updated title - Disturbia.  Although this film was clearly an updated version of the Hitchcock classic, and I was mildly entertained by the adorable Shia Labeouf, there is nothing “classic” about it.  If you didn’t see Disturbia, there is still a huge chance that you’ve seen The Simpson’s episode “Bart of Darkness” that is also based on the original.  Remember when Bart breaks his leg and is stuck in his room for the summer, becoming increasingly obsessed with the comings and goings of his neighbours?  100% Hitchcock.  While Bart is looking through his telescope, he even comes across the cartoon version of Cary Grant who was the star of the first Rear Window.

As a tribute I have written this short poem as a way of expressing my awe and fear of the great Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock:

If we were to meet as “Strangers on a Train
heading North by Northwest, I would not abstain
From saying “I’m Rebecca and I really must know
why you sit near the Torn Curtain of the Rear Window?
As a fan, there is No Shadow of a Doubt
Murder! and Blackmail your films are about.
I confess your Rich and Strange nature is Notorious
but your Champagne and Vertigo are really quite glorious.
You are The Man Who Knew too Much
irrationally afraid of The Birds, Lifeboats and such
You gave us Suspicion about the Easy Virtue of The Farmer’s Wife
and left us completely Spellbound by Norman the Psycho’s knife.”
When finished my Young and Innocent rant, he would turn and reply
“Hand me that Rope, for it’s your turn to die.”

In the name of Merlin – it’s party time!

Happy Birthday to you!
You live in a zoo!
You look like a muggle,
And you smell like one too!

Gulping Gargoyles!  My Remembrall is glowing red and I just figured out why:   It’s that time of year once again – the day that millions of people worldwide will celebrate by lifting their glasses of Butterbeer:  J.K. Rowling’s birthday!

It’s no wonder that Rowling will receive more birthday cards in one day than I ever will in my whole life – She created Harry Potter.  Without him, the world would be a sad and lonely place devoid of lightning scars, Quidditch matches, and all those hopeful tweens dreaming that their Hogwarts invitation still might arrive via owl.   However, as aspiring writer’s, I think we can all agree that her story is a bit of an inspiration for all of us.

From having just a few Knuts rattling around in her pocket to having millions of Galleons stashed away in her Gringotts’ vault, Rowling’s life is its very own “Rags to Riches” fairytale.  But hold your hippogriffs! Her success didn’t happen overnight.  Rowling’s manuscript for the first Harry Potter book (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) was rejected by twelve publishing houses before finally being picked up by a small publishing house called Bloomsbury.  She was even told to find a job because her book wouldn’t make enough money to live off.   Further proof that becoming a best selling, successfully published author takes time, patience and perseverance.

Don’t forget, J.K. Rowling isn’t the only one celebrating her birthday today.   As the creator of Harry Potter, she decided to give him the same birthday as herself (making me assume she also has trouble remembering important dates). So happy birthday Harry! We wish you all the best and hope, for your sake,  that there’s a birthday cake flavored bean in Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.

Harry makes a Patronus

Harry makes a birthday Patronus

Now grab some floo powder or your nearest portkey and come on down to Diagon Alley to celebrate with us!  Or, if you’re stuck at work behind a desk at the Ministry of Magic, just click the link below to join the party! (I encourage you to watch the video more than once as it gains added hilarity over time.)

Potter Puppet Pals: Happy Hogwarts Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Antoine de Saint- Exupéry!

The Little Prince Wikipedia.orgWhen I was young, I remember my grandmother telling me a story about a little prince.  At the time, I thought she was making it up. But one day, my mom bought me the book The Little Prince and I was surprised to learn that the story wasn’t conjured up by my grandmothers imagination, but rather the imagination of Antoine de Saint- Exupéry.

Today, June 29th, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry would have been 112 years old. Let’s raise our glasses to this pilot, journalist, author and publicist who left the world too early in 1944. Below is my favorite quote from The Little Prince.

“Goodbye, said the fox. And now here is my secret, a very simple secret. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”


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