Cindy: The aspiring teen writer in me wishes this book had been available 35 years ago. Barring the development of a time machine, I will have to settle for sharing it with kindred spirits in my book club, and I am eager to do so. The Curiosities (Carolrhoda LAB 2012) is the joint effort of Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff. These three have been writing and posting short stories on their blog, The Merry Sisters of Fate since 2008. They’ve collected thirty of the stories here and added handwritten comments, edits and drawings.
The first story by Gratton, “The Vampire Box,” includes this in the intro: “I sat on this story for seven months, knowing the first line but waiting for the rest of the story to bubble up.” In the wide margin is a handwritten comment by Maggie:
And by “sat,” she means complain to me monthly: I have this story I want to write but can’t yet.
Maggie has a 2 1/2 page story, “Council of Youth and comments herself at the end of it:
This story is very, very short, and also one of the first I wrote for Merry Sisters of Fate. Knowing what I know now, I would expand it with some more details of the world-building. Back then, I didn’t know how to do it without the dreaded info-dump, so I just said nothing at all.
Interspersed with the stories are some big drawings that include topics like “5 Signs of a Tessa/Maggie/Brenna Story,” “Favorite Words,” “Our Work Spaces,” “Raw Data,” (a tally mark list of the number of kisses, fire, dead bodies, etc. in the collection), and a list of “How to End a Story When You’re Stuck.”
The aspiring adult writer in me would have preferred a little more meat in the critiquing and I found the authors’ intros more helpful than the chatty and light comments that make up most of the handwritten comments, but this book is for the budding teen writer and I think they will find it entertaining and inspiring. It will certainly encourage them to take a crack at writing, and perhaps at starting a similar project with their own writing friends.
Lynn: Sometimes I take off my reviewer’s hat and just sit back and enjoy a book for the fun of it and that was the case here. I loved the stories, the glimpses of the creative process and the sense of all three authors and their writing friendship. I enjoyed the comments and the authorial exploration and the humor too. I enjoyed this book as a reader and a writer – the entertainment of the stories AND as a peek through office door of three established authors at work. I think this is a can’t miss with teens too. I know they will gasp at getting stories by these three wonderful writers in one book, be intrigued by the premise and then captured by the experience.
There are wonderful possibilities for the classroom too! Give students one of the stories complete with comments and then give them one without the comments and ask them to write their own. Or have them compare and contrast the three authors’ styles of writing. Ask if there is one they enjoy more and why. Facilitate similar groups among students who are interested in trying this editing circle approach. This is can be fun in so many ways. Enjoy!