Something to Read: “Nicely Said”

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And now for something completely different! Ever since I started this blog a little over a month ago, I’ve been looking for advice on how to better communicate my “voice” through my writing. Well, I just got done reading this book, Nicely Said: Writing for the Web With Style and Purpose, by Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee. I’m not sure if this advisory book is covered by the definition of  “art” (which is what I normally talk about on here), but it is most definitely worth a recommendation.

Fenton is an independent writer and editor, having worked for Apple and a few other unnamed companies. Lee is a wirter and editor at MailChimp, and has written for the likes of Forbes and A List Apart. Both authors use this combined experience to provide advise on writing anything from blog posts, to website interface flow, to marketing copy. Covering topics such as watching your tone, creating and following style guides and, of course, finding your voice. And if you’re not well versed in writer’s terms, don’t worry, it’s all written in plain English.

Since I’m only writing a personal blog, there’s obviously some stuff in here that didn’t really apply to me. But I still found this book really helpful for what I’m doing here. One of the biggest things I took away on my first read-through is how to better write in a friendly, conversational tone, something I now think about with every post. If you’re looking at getting into anything that requires a large amount of writing, I highly recommend you give this one a look.

You can find out more about Nicely Said by Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee at the book’s official site.

Spooky Things: “Anya’s Ghost”

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All Hallow’s Eve is a-coming, and whether you’re planning on partying this year, trick-or-treating at the age of 27, or sitting it out all-together, it’s always fun to take a look at the creepier-crawlier side of things. So that’s just what I plan to do. On every remaining Friday in this October, I’ll be taking a look at anything regarding a more supernatural subject then our standard affair. Starting us off is a wonderful graphic novel that I just recently discovered: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol.

Anya’s Ghost tells the tale of a teenage girl named (you guessed it,) Anya, a Russian immigrant who sees herself as the sort of black sheep of her private school. Her best friend is kind of a jerk, she can’t seem to get the attention of her crush and she’s rather self-conscious about her look. One day, just as it’s all starting to overwhelm her, she ends up falling down a large hole in the middle of the forest.

It’s there that she encounters the titular ghost. A friendly-looking woman who’s been dead for over ninety years. After Anya is rescued, the ghost decides to tag along, developing a friendship with Anya while trying to help her improve her everyday life.

This is one really well told story. The dialogue is intelligent and witty, the main character is easy to root for and the story is charming, even while building up to a genuinely creepy third-act. The artwork is also top-notch. The black-and-white coloring suits the story well, and each character is well designed, while sporting an impressive range of expression.

Since the book was published in 2011, it’s won an Eisner Award and a Harvey Award, and it definitely deserves them both. Smart, eerie, charming and funny, Anya’s Ghost is an engaging read. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you seek it out.

Something to Read: “Seconds” Review

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I’m a major fan of Bryan Lee O’Maley’s Scott Pilgrim series. Have been since High School. And my interest in the rest of his work O’ Malley’s work led me to the recently released Seconds.

The story in Seconds focus a 29 year old chef named Katie. She’s the former head chef of a restaurant called “seconds” (see what they did there?), and has a restaurant of her very own under construction downtown. She goes through a bad day, and then comes into contact with a mysterious magical girl and a batch of magic mushrooms. Bear with me.

Katie finds out that the mushrooms allow her to rewrite history by fixing her mistakes, and then sets out to not only fix her problems, but perfect her life. Admittedly, the basics of this time-traveling story have been done many times before. But here, it’s a story told really well.

The cast of characters are lovable, the jokes hit more often than they miss, and the message at the end still proved powerful to me. On top of that, the artwork is beautiful. O’Malley’s design and style, combined with the colors of Nathan Fairbarn, create a world worth spending time in for the duration of the book.

Scott Pilgrim fans will feel right at home in Seconds, with a familiar art style and sense of humor. The difference here is that the art, humor and story feel just a little more refined, a little more matured. In several ways, I felt like I was witnessing the next evolution of O’Malley’s artistic expression, and that’s a cool thing to see.

All in all, whether you’re a fan of the author’s previous work, or if you’re just looking for a funny, stylized and emotional graphic novel, I would fully recommend this book.