A Sense of Place

I love to read books with a strong sense of place, ones in which I can imagine the setting so vividly that it seems real. I think the best books are those which not only describe the physical setting, but engage all the senses to draw the reader into the story. Alluding to the smell, the sounds, the feel of a place, all help to make it come alive. For me, a story with a strong sense of place helps the story to linger in my memory long after I have finished the book.

Laura Ingalls Wilder achieved this beautifully in the Little House books. Her descriptions of the places she and her family lived were so richly detailed with the sounds and smells and feel of her surroundings that it was easy to feel a part of her world. The way she describes the little log house in the big woods of Wisconsin, the enormous, empty prairie, with the great blue sky above it, the small town of De Smet where Laura and Carrie went to school, truly bring the stories to life. I could almost feel the penetrating cold of the blizzards, hear the birdsong and the whispering of the wind through the grasses, see the wildflowers, the fields of Pa’s crops, the furniture inside the little log house.

 

In Don’t Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde, most of the story takes place in an apartment building. The story revolves around a  young girl, who is neglected by her troubled mother, and who seeks help from the building’s occupants. The lives of the residents become intertwined as they are brought together in their bid to help 10-year-old Grace evade Social Services. The strong sense of place is central to the story not only for Grace, but also for another of the building’s residents, Billy Shine, who is agoraphobic and has not left his apartment in years.

 

 

A tiny island off the west coast of Ireland is the setting for Casting Off by Nicole R. Dickson. Rebecca Moray goes to the island with her young daughter, Rowan, to research a book on Irish knitting and to seek refuge from a painful past. Nicole Dickson has created a strong sense of place as we learn the history of the island and meet the many colourful characters who inhabit it. I think I enjoyed this book so much because it is the sort of place I would love to visit.

 

 

One of my favourite books I have read lately has been Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann. The chapters alternate between Amanda, who runs a vintage clothing store in present day New York, and Olive, a young woman in turn-of-the-century New York. When Amanda finds Olive’s journal sewn into a fur muff, she learns what life was like in her own neighbourhood more than a hundred years ago. Throughout the story there is a strong sense of place in both modern day New York and early twentieth century New York. With the wonderful descriptions of the city in both eras, and of the department store in which Olive works, I felt as though I were right there with the characters. Also, I love that there are many old photographs in the book of New York City as it was in Olive’s era.

 

I always try to create a strong sense of place in my own writing. I ask myself What would I see, hear, feel, and smell if I were the character?

Where the Moths DanceIn Where the Moths Dance, much of the story takes place in an old graveyard, surrounded by gum trees, whose gnarly old roots encroach onto the pavement leading up the hill. The graveyard is Jessie’s sanctuary, where she talks to the dead, and can navigate her way around the gravestones in the dark like a night hunter. She finds comfort in the sound of the wind through the gum trees, the cawing of the crows as they fly between the branches overhead, the smell of eucalyptus after it has rained. But Gum Tree Hill Cemetery harbours something more sinister, and when Jessie’s sanctuary is threatened, the graveyard becomes vital in Jessie’s battle to protect those she loves.

 

Scrappy Cupcake AngelsScrappy Cupcake Angels is set in Kerrigan, a small New Zealand town with a gold-mining past. The story revolves around a scrapbooking shop, in a converted Victorian house, down a small lane. As the aroma of coffee swirls tantalisingly through the shop, drifting out the door to lure in passers-by with the temptation of warmth and comfort, Angeline teaches the folk of Kerrigan to embrace their creativity and make beautiful keepsakes. For four women, it is the friendship, and the chance to escape from life’s hassles for a few hours each week, that keeps them coming back to the cosy, little shop, where problems seem to mysteriously sort themselves out.

Autumn Journal Page

I love to pick up fallen leaves when we go for walks with Finn. The autumn leaves are such beautiful colours. There is just something about them that I can’t resist, although I am never quite sure what I will do with them once I get them home. More often than not, they will end up being tossed away again. This year, however, I was determined to use some on a journal page.

Although the leaves were already dry when I collected them, I pressed them under a pile of heavy books for a week to flatten them before I used them.

I painted the background of my journal page with watercolour paints, in autumn shades of golds, reds and orange. Then I glued a photo of Finn onto the page and surrounded it with the leaves. I glued the leaves down, then covered them with a layer of mod podge to protect and preserve them. I used scrapbooking letters to spell out the word Autumn.

Autumn Journal Page

Beneath the Bilobas

One of the parks where we walk Finn has a row of Ginkgo Biloba trees. The soft fruit-like seeds that fall on the ground are very smelly, but the fan-shaped leaves, which turn bright yellow in autumn, are quite beautiful.

Finn

 

 

Ginkgo Biloba leaves

Ginkgo is one of the longest-living tree species in the world and can live for more than a thousand years. Ginkgo extract, usually made from the leaves, has long been used to improve memory and cognition. In recent years there have been several studies carried out on its effectiveness in treating dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, with conflicting results.

Ginkgo Biloba trees

On a cold winter’s day, it is cheering to see the lovely golden carpet of leaves on the ground.

 

Fun at the Beach

We have had amazing weather this autumn. There has been very little rain, and until a couple of days ago, the temperatures have been up in the twenties most days. Last weekend we took Finn to one of our local beaches. He had a wonderful time chasing sticks, digging in the sand, and investigating all the different smells and debris that had washed up onto the beach. He was a little wary of the water, but I’m sure it won’t be too long until he ventures into it.

 

 

 

Finn5

Westshore Beach

Schooldays Scrapbook

Kristah Price:

Take a look at a picture of me as a five-year-old, in a scrapbook layout of my first day at school, posted on my Wattle Lane blog.

Originally posted on Wattle Lane:

In Scrappy Cupcake Angels, Jodi makes a scrapbook album of her son’s first school year. Putting together a scrapbook is a fun way of documenting your child’s progress. You can include in it things such as their artwork, certificates, stories, lists of books they read, photographs of their friends, school sports days, school trips etc. It can be a fun activity to share with your child. They can help to embellish the pages, and it is a wonderful record of their schooldays for them to look back on when they are grown.

This is a page I made of my first day at school. I like using layering on my pages, so I layered several scrapbook papers and a graph page from one of my old school maths books. I inked or chalked the edges of all the papers to add interest. I added a border of numbered washi tape…

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New Cover for Scrappy Cupcake Angels

My novel, Scrappy Cupcake Angels, has just come out with a new cover. I think the new design has more of a crafty feel and is perfect for the story inside.

Most online retailers are now selling the new edition, but some, such as Amazon, may still have the old cover on their website until they have sold the books they have in stock. It is available as a paperback, hardback, and ebook.

Here is the new cover.

Scrappy Cupcake Angels

 

Amazon.com

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Fishpond (NZ)

Also, I have a new blog, which will be all about the book. It will have recipes and crafts from the story, as well as news on upcoming books in the Wattle Lane series. Click here to take a look. www.wattlelane.wordpress.com

Book Review: An Altered Existence

An Altered Existence

There is something about vintage photos that sparks the imagination, drawing you into a bygone era, imagining what life was like for the subjects, who often looked solemn, dressed in all their finery, posing for the camera. I love to use old family photographs in my heritage scrapbooking and mixed-media art, telling the stories of my ancestors through pictures and journaling.

In An Altered Existence: Fictitious Stories About Faces from the Past, Melody M. Nunez has taken vintage photos, also known as cabinet cards, which she collected from flea markets and antique stores, and created fictional short stories about the people in them.

Each chapter begins with an “altered” photograph, embellished with stitching, buttons, lace, an old key, followed by a story woven around the subject of the photo. The stories range from historical to contemporary fiction and cover a wide range of subjects from family, relationships, and the language of flowers, to ghosts, hoarding, and a man obsessed with time. I love Melody’s style of writing. It is easy to read, with each story an imaginative glimpse into a life that could have been.

Melody is an artist and a writer. Visit her website at www.melodynunez.com to see illustrations from the book, and to view more of her artwork.