Life Lessons From Fiction

I think that many people out there underestimate the power fiction can have on the world. I know for me, I am who I am because of a few stories that have played large roles in my life. I have no idea who I would have turned out to be had I not encountered these stories when I did (or if I even encountered them at all.

After considering this, I decided to write out some of the lessons I have learned from fictional stories. Actually, I have chosen lessons from the stories I think have had the largest impact on who I am as a person: Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Torchwood, and The Lord of the Rings. Some of these lessons have connections with more than one of these stories, or even all of them. So, in no particular order or importance, I give you the list of lessons I have learned from fiction.

Even The Smallest Person Can Change The World

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This one you might recognize, as it appears almost word for word in The Lord of the Rings. Galadriel is the one who says it outright. I think in the context of the book it referred specifically to hobbits, but I also think it means more than that. Sure, in the book many underestimate hobbits, and it does apply to them…but what I got out of it is that even the voices most people would ignore initially, the ones who might initially believe they have no impact, can have lots of power and enact change.

In The Lord of the Rings, beyond the story lines surrounding Frodo, Merry, Pippin, and Sam…I think we see this lesson with Éowyn. People underestimate her simply because she is a woman, and yet I think things would have been very different after The Battle of Pelennor Fields without her strength.

In the grand scheme of things, I think I would count as a small person. My voice probably does not have the same starting power, and yet I could still enact change. I think we all could, if we tried.

Break The Mold

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The standout characters in these works, like Neville and Luna in Harry Potter, are the ones that break the mold. If we were all the same, the world would not be that amazing of a place, would it? The ones who do not follow every move the majority makes add the colour into the world. They are just as smart, creative, et cetera. Breaking the mold makes things interesting. Besides, who wants to be a cookie cutter normal person?

You Are Important

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I think the Doctor is great at showing people their brilliance and importance in the world. Just look at what he did for Donna! I do agree with him as well, everyone is important in one way or another. Everyone has their strengths. He actually says it in his 11th form: “in nine hundred years of time and space and I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important before,” but I think it was clear long before then.

Everyone Needs Support

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I am not sure which story this stems from originally. In all cases, the main “hero” has people surrounding them who help in some ways, both large and small, throughout the journey. I think it is clear that some play an essential role.

There is no way that Frodo would have destroyed the Ring in the end, were it not for Sam’s presence. Even though the ultimate destruction was a bit of an accident, I am sure that Frodo would have failed much earlier had it not been for Sam.

Do you think that Harry would have been successful without Ron and Hermione? What about all the others who fought in the war, like Lupin, Tonks, the Weasleys, and Neville? One of Harry’s biggest strengths was how he had support and was not alone in his fight. If he had done things alone (though they would not have let him), I doubt he would have succeeded.

I also want to bring Up Captain Jack and Gwen in Torchwood: Miracle Day here, as I re-watched all of Torchwood shortly before writing this post. There is a moment near the end where Jack knows what has to happen, though he does not want to do it. I know he would have done it, that is just who he is, but Gwen also knows his reluctance and says she will shoulder that part so he does not have to. I do not want to share more than that in the event you have not seen it, but if you have I know you know what I am talking about.

Time Doesn’t Matter As Much As You Think

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There is a moment where the 10th Doctor where he says “Some people live more in twenty years than others do in eighty. It’s not the time that matters, it’s the person.”

You can choose to do nothing and live for a long time. Or, you can do something, and live for a short time and yet still have done more. Some people pack their lives full with projects, family, et cetera, and accomplish so much in a single week or even just a day. Knowing that it is the person that matters reminds me that I need to live my life as full as possible.

The Bad Doesn’t Out Weigh The Good

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I know when the Doctor regenerates, many fans have difficulties adjusting, especially when it is their Doctor that just left. I know this was definitely the case for me when the 10th Doctor, played by David Tennant, regenerated into the 11th Doctor, played by Matt Smith. It took me a little while to adjust to the idea, but then Matt’s Doctor taught me something:

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”

Sometimes it is tough to remember this when bad things happen, but of course, it is still the truth. One of the good and comforting truths.

Love Is Powerful

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I think this is one lesson that has overlap in more than one of the works I told you about, however I think its roots lie in Harry Potter. To me, Harry Potter shows that love is the most powerful force there is. I do not even mean romantic love here either (although sure, this can be powerful too), but rather different forms. In Harry’s case, I think it is the power of a mother’s love. You can also see the power of a friendship love in Harry Potter, and frankly in Torchwood too. Romantic love is not the most important. Love in all forms is important. All forms of it are powerful.

The Right Choice Isn’t Always Easy

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In every story, the hero will face a choice. The easy thing to do, of course, would be to run away. But that is also not always the right choice to make. Consider the choice the Hufflepuffs made in the Battle of Hogwarts. Just about every single person decides to stay and fight, for no other reason than it was the right thing to do. They could have saved themselves and taken the easy way out, but they did not.

I could pull an example from every one of the stories on the list, but the story that really taught me this lesson was Torchwood. The specific moment was when Jack makes a choice in the final episode of Children of Earth. He makes a significant and heartbreaking sacrifice in order to save people. He knows what it will cost him if he does it, and yet he does it anyways because he knows the cost of not doing it.

I know people had strong opinions about it. I know what I think about it, though I am not wholly comfortable with the choice itself. You can make an argument both for and against it being the right choice.

I do not know if I could have done what Jack did, but I do think he did the right thing, though as I said I am not comfortable with the choice at the same time. Mostly, this is because of the weight and seriousness of the choice and its consequences weighed against the consequences of not making it. I am trying to talk around it, given that if you have not seen the show I really think you should give it a shot, and who wants spoilers? In the end though, Jack’s choice showed me that the right choice can be a difficult one. It can be heartbreaking, but some choices just need to be made.

 

There are many other lessons I could tell you about, but I figured I would stop it for now. I want to open it to you! What lessons have fictional stories (books, television, et cetera) taught you? How have they changed your outlook? I would love to hear all about it!

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Book Adaptations and Real World Filming Locations

The visuals authors describe in their novels often reaches stunning levels, particularly with fantasy fiction. With stunning backdrops to breathtaking stories, it can be hard to bring new worlds to life on screen. Sometimes, the individuals behind television shows and films decide to use studios and computer-generate imagery to bring the story locations to life. However, quite a few also choose to employ locations in our real world. Sometimes, they do not change the original location at all. Other times, they choose to enhance the real location with CGI.

Many of these adaptations show stunning locations around our world. Just looking at the pictures is enough to spark wanderlust in just about everyone.

I have compiled a list of some of the real world locations for some iconic moments in film and television adaptations of books. Let your travel bug awaken.

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle is located in Northumberland, England. It has appeared as a location in films and television shows many different times. Perhaps the most famous appearance, however, is as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first two Harry Potter films. You can catch in scenes like Harry’s first flying lesson and the crash landing of the Ford Anglia.

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So that is what it looks like on film, but what about when no crews are around? The castle is still majestic, of course. This is what you will see if you visit:

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Mount Ngauruhoe

Mount Ngauruhoe, for those who may not know, is an active stratovolcano on the North Island of New Zealand. Its first eruption was 2500 years ago. Its latest eruption was in 1977.  It is part of the Tongariro volcanic complex, and sits between Mount Tongariro to the North and Mount Ruapehu to the south. It is also close to the southern short of Lake Taupo, the volcanic caldera.

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This is what it looked like in May 2015 when I stood there in New Zealand, staring at it with my own two eyes. Let me tell you, that sight took my breath away. Why? Not only is that an amazing sight in itself, but I had done research and it told me that Mount Ngauruhoe is a famous volcano, though you may not know it. Peter Jackson used this volcano in the three Lord of the Rings films as Mount Doom (though they also filmed on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu). It looked like this in the films:

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Astonishing, right?

Tawahi Falls

Tawhai Falls is in Tongariro National Park, as are the volcanoes I just talked about. The falls are simple and many may say unassuming in the grand scheme of things. However, one of the attendants at the hotel my family stayed at (Chateau Tongariro) mentioned that we could walk to Tawhai Falls and that they were used in The Lord of the Rings as The Forbidden Pool, which is where Gollum catches his fish, sings the song, and where Frodo looks down on him with Faramir.

In real life, it looks like this:

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This is what it looks like in the film:

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Azure Window, Malta

I have never been to Malta, but sights like the Azure Window really make me wish to go. Of course, the fact that a portion of my heritage is Maltese may also have something to do with it. Although the Azure Window is not, as far as I am aware, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I do know that Malta has three of them, including an entire city.

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So where might you have seen the Azure Window before, even if you have never been to Malta? In the ever popular Game of Thrones television series on HBO! They used it as a backdrop in the first season, for Daenerys’ and Khal Drogo’s wedding. This is what they showed onscreen:

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It is not that far off from the way it looks in reality, is it? Just a bit dustier, in my view.

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I could give you quote a few locations within Mdina—Malta’s Silent City—that Game of Thrones used. In the first season, Mdina was the onscreen representation for most of King’s Landing. I do not know that there is one location more important than the other, but for this article I will share one iconic one. The Mdina gates were the entrance into King’s Landing, and the location where Ned and Catelyn said goodbye.

In real life, they look like this:

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In the show, they appeared like this:

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There are countless real world filming locations out there, of course, and I could not include all of them on my list. I stumbled across another Lord of the Rings filming location in New Zealand (the fields of Rohan) and I very nearly included Skellig Michael Island on this list, which appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But of course, that one was not an adaptation, so I had to take it out. Nevertheless, I think this list shows just a fraction of the beauty our world contains.

Out of this list, where do you want to go the most? Have you been to one of these locations? What was it like there? I want to hear all about it! Have you visited other real world locations from your favourite films?  Tell me about those ones as well!

From Page To Screen: Book To Movie Adaptations

I have a complicated relationship with the onscreen adaptations of the books I have read. Just remembering how they treated Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is appalling to me. However, I have since come to realize that I have to treat the adaptations as their own thing. They cannot mean the same to me, otherwise I will never be happy with what I see on screen.

So with that said, I still carefully consider the adaptations I see onscreen. My first rule, of course, is that I need to read the book before watching the movie, if I know ahead of time that a particular movie is an adaptation. I do also like to see how well they have translated the book onto the screen, whether it is a literal translation or simply translating the essence of the book. I had to expand it to include the essence, because as I have said I need to treat the book and the movie as separate things and sometimes something in the book cannot be done literally for one reason or another.

Without further ado, I would like to present you with my top book to movie adaptations (in no particular order). I would like to note that I am not grouping together major series, but rather picking my favourite adaptation from the series. Make sense? Let’s go!

The Return of the King

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I think that all three of the movies are good, but I find The Return of the King comes out on top when I think about all three. It surprises me a little, since it has the most to live up to in my opinion, since the final volume is my favourite in the books. However, it also does not surprise me.

One of the major things I love is how Peter Jackson chose to intersplice the stories. You may not remember, but in the books Tolkien essentially split his books into two parts per volume. So in The Return of the King, we had Frodo and Sam’s story told in one half, and the rest in the other. In the film, Peter Jackson chose to shorten the moments and flit between them more often. While this can get confusing in certain cases, it did not in The Return of the King. The best thing it did, in my opinion, was to avoid spoiling parts of the future for the other side of the story.

Of course I cannot pass up the opportunity to talk about Éowyn again. The way they handled her shining moment in battle, along with the build up to it, was amazing. Of course, it is not quite like the book version of events, but I rather enjoyed the way they did it anyways.

The Princess Bride

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I think that The Princess Bride is one of the ones perfect for adapting. You may not know this, but the book version of it actually has the author integrated into the story. He notes that his grandfather only told him the interesting parts of the story and left out the “boring” bits. As such, he created an abridged version of the book, which fits really good with a movie version. There are, of course, still some differences, but I still think that the movie works.

You have so many iconic lines in the book, many of which appear almost exactly in the film version. You actually do not get that much anymore in films. If you are lucky, you might get one line. It is not necessary, of course, but I think it shows quality when the film manages to keep exact lines while maintaining the pace an essence of a written story.

The Green Mile

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I remember I saw this film years ago, and I do not remember the book much. I am actually not sure if I read it? I must have though. I guess I should take the time to do so again?

The sheer emotion in this film is astounding. The story, if you are not aware, is about a corrections officer in 1935 and what he saw on death row. The supernatural element to this adaptation is handled quite well. I liked how the movie itself was long, I think just over three hours, because a lot of time passes in the story. It makes things seem more real than if they had tried to back everything in two hours or less. Honestly, you should give this movie a shot. You will not regret it.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Out of all the films in the Harry Potter series, I think that they did the best with The Prisoner of Azkaban. I would have picked the two Deathly Hallows films, but it would not be fair to count them on this list. I would have to treat them separately, and I do not believe either would make it as one half of a story.

I think that the only significant flaw in this film is how they treated the Firebolt portion of the story. In the books, it comes into play earlier rather than right at the end. It gives the Trio some conflict and other portions of the story develop from that. However, the visuals in this film and the way Alfonso (the director) presents the rest of the story make up for most of that. I love how they show the Whomping Willow, the Dementors, freezing flowers, et cetera.

 

I am sure that I could pick others for this list, but I thought I would cap it there. Keep in mind that I have not seen every single adaptation, and because of that there could be some gems on this list. I would love to get some recommendations on new things to read and watch! Make sure you provide the information for the book, because as I said, I like to read them first.

Favourite Fictional Characters

Whenever I read a book, I am always partially on the lookout for a character I can connect with, who might inspire me, or who holds some other kind of intrigue. Frankly, whenever I engage with a fictional work I look for a character like that.

When I thought about this idea, I was going to limit it to characters from novels. However, I quickly realized that it would be unfair to the other fictional characters I love that came from movies and television shows. Besides, they started out as part of a script…on paper. So I felt they counted too, which is how I ended up with this list. This list, by the way, is not exhaustive. I could have picked quite a few others, including a number of other characters from Harry Potter, but I also wanted to capture a range here.

Éowyn

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How could I not put her on this list? She is such a strong woman in a world dominated by men. I love that she does not fall into what is expected of her in the world of Middle Earth, in that she does not want to sit idly by while the people she cares about die. She wants to protect her home, her people—all of it. I feel like I would be much like her if I were there. I always want to protect the things and people I care about.

While you may say that most of the characters are heroes in The Lord of the Rings, I feel as if Éowyn ranks among the top tier, like Sam Gamgee. I say this because she is instrumental in the destruction of the Witch-King (more on that in another post), and some people in the books do not have a moment like that. Honestly, I could talk about her forever, like what I love about her and Faramir, but I must get on with it.

Neville Longbottom

Why is it always me? Sometimes I think that Neville has some of the worst luck in the world. My heart really feels for him. I mean, Bellatrix tortured his parents to the point that they no longer recognize him. Just thinking about that breaks my heart.

Neville is able to persevere through quite a bit of adversity, which makes him very endearing. I think that his problem in the beginning was a lack of confidence. However, you can tell later on that he grows into himself and by the end he is a crucial part in Lord Voldemort’s demise. Ranked behind Harry, sure, but still up there.

I think another reason why I like Neville is because of his moment in the first book where he stands up to Ron, Hermione, and Harry. Dumbledore was really right here. It does take courage to face your enemy, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends. They are the ones who care, after all.

Gollum/Sméagol

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Gollum is one of those cases that I like his character if I look at him from a writer’s perspective. You have, essentially, two sides to him. One is good (Sméagol) and the other well, not so much (Gollum). Watching the conflict and seeing that kind of characterization is amazing as a writer. Those are the type of “villains” I prefer. If they are pure evil and evoke no sympathy, things just are not as fun, are they?

Harriet Smith

Harriet is the blonde/terrified one.
Harriet is the blonde/terrified one.

Oh Harriet. For those who may not know, Harriet is from Jane Austen’s Emma. I put her on here because she is perhaps the character closest to me in those books. I think the only thing I might have in common with Elizabeth Bennet would be reading and independence, and I do not believe I am all that much like Emma. But Harriet? I am, most often, like the way she was in the middle of the book. For that, she has a spot here.

Anakin Skywalker

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I never really thought about Anakin seriously until I read the book adaptations of the Star Wars films. If you really want to read my detailed thoughts, click on this link for the posts related to that. What it boils down to with Anakin though is that he never really stood a chance against the Dark Side. He is another case of a villain being torn. He does have good in him, and wanted to do something good, but the temptation and offer from the Dark Side got to him. I would love to sink my teeth into a character like him in a future novel.

The Doctor

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The Doctor is a complicated one on this list, given that he can regenerate and as such, has a bit of a different personality each time. With that said, I have to say the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) for this one. Not all of his incarnations would make it on this list.

Everyone who follows Doctor Who has a Doctor. For many, it is their first Doctor. For me, it was my second. I am not quite sure what it was about Tennant’s Doctor that got me so attached to him. I just know that the Doctor takes seemingly ordinary people and makes them realize how extraordinary they are. Beautiful, in my opinion.

Captain Jack Harkness

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Here we are, with the Captain. Dare I say, my favourite Captain? Both Doctor Who and Torchwood have been so ingrained in me, it is kind of like with Harry Potter in that I would not be the same without them. While there are many characters to consider, Captain Jack…well, except from the Doctor because I do not know how you really compare them, but Jack is my favourite. He is one I would want in a crisis. It is funny, but as I think about his character I find that I just cannot find the words to describe my reasoning fully.

Overall, I think he is fascinating and I so wish that he will appear on our television screens again. If I could only pick one character to come back to a show (any show) it would be him. He is not a villain, but I think his character is multi-faceted and flawed in such a way that I would LOVE to write for him. Oh, that would be an amazing writing job, would it not? Aside from writing my own novels, I would definitely want to write Captain Jack Harkness on Torchwood and Doctor Who.

 

Who would your favourite fictional characters be? I would love to hear about them and why you love them!

Fabulous Female Authors

When I look back at the books I had to read in high school, I realized that male authors dominated the list. In fact, I think there was only one assigned book—Wuthering Heights—that was by a woman. I know I read another one for an independent project, but the teacher did not assign that specific book, so it does not count.

Luckily, my university career was a bit more diverse! There was a mix of male and female authors. I am not sure what the final split was, unfortunately. I was going to try to make a list of all the books, but considering one of my majors was English, I read multiple books in most of my classes, which makes it hard to remember every one of them.

In any case, the lack of female authors in high school makes me sad, and so I thought that I would share a few of my favourite female authors. Some of them are actually quite influential in the realm of literature. Note that they are not in any particular order.

Tamora Pierce

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I think out of all of the ladies on this list, Tamora Pierce is perhaps the best at giving us heroines. The vast majority of her novels have a female character as the focus point. We have Alanna, who disguises her identity in order to become a knight. There is also Beka Cooper, who is essentially a watchperson for the city. Tris, Sandry, Daja, Keladry, and more also follow. All of her female main characters are strong. However, they are also varied in their personalities and flawed in their own ways. I think the flaws and the variety are the reasons why I love her heroines so much.

J.K. Rowling

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How could I not mention J.K. Rowling? She did an amazing thing for literature. She proved that children will read thicker books. She brought many children their childhoods and carried people through tough times. It just saddens me that she needed to invent the middle initial and be known as J.K. Rowling rather than Joanne Rowling, because many thought that young boys would not want to read a book written by a woman.

She is an absolute inspiration. At one point in her life, she was as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless. She had an infant daughter and she clawed her way up with the kindness of others and her writing. Now? She is quite rich, but has not let that get to her. I can tell from the things I read that she knows the value of a dollar. She also uses her visibility and wealth to do good around the world, particularly with her charity, Lumos.

Jodi Picoult

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I think Jodi Picoult is probably the Queen of Heart-wrenching Books. There is no question for me. Every book I have read of hers tugged at my heartstrings. Even if the book did not reduce me to tears, as some of hers have, I would still feel the weight of them.

I love how she takes controversial issues and weaves them in her stories. Her stories read real for me. I mean, I can lose myself in science fiction and fantasy of course, but I find that Jodi Picoult’s stories are so real-world that there is something special about them.

I know that My Sister’s Keeper is probably her most popular work, but it is not my personal favourite. While all of the ones she writes are good, My Sister’s Keeper included, I particularly enjoyed Handle With Care, The Pact, and Nineteen Minutes.

Jane Austen

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I felt as if I had to put Jane Austen on here. She wrote classic love stories and we are seeing her works adapted in many different ways. I do not know what the climate was really like for women during her lifetime, but given what I do know about the present day and certain points in history, I find it amazing that she wrote these books. I think she may have gotten her brother to publish them for her, though I have also heard she published as simply “A Lady,” but all the same she was doing what she needed to in order to have people see her work. I also appreciate that her heroines are different and are flawed people. No human is perfect, so why should literary characters be that way?

On this list, Jane Austen represents other female authors that far back in history, like the Brontë sisters, George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans under a pseudonym), and Louisa May Alcott. I wish they did not need to do what they did, but I am glad that their work is out there (even if I dislike Wuthering Heights a lot).

Margaret Atwood

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Of course, I cannot leave out the Canadian contingent here! It is my country, after all. I have put Margaret Atwood on this list because I have read a few of her books and she happens to be at Fan Expo Canada this weekend (although I do not get to meet her). Thus, she is prominent in my mind right now. What I have read of her work shows me that she has a unique take on things, and in the case of The Handmaid’s Tale, a potentially eerie way of predicting the future.

Alice Munro

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Like Margaret Atwood, Alice is from my gorgeous country of Canada. Her influence on Canadian literature and literature as a whole is enormous. How could it not be, considering she one a Nobel Prize for it? I think that Alice Munro is perhaps the master (mistress?) of the short story. Her command and style works wonders with this particular format.

 

I am curious. Who is the most influential female author in your life? Why? If they are not on this list, tell me which of their books I should read first (if they write more than one)! Are you going to try one of the authors on this list if you have not read their stuff already? I look forward to hearing form all of your in the comments section.