Thursday, June 30, 2011

by Laurel Garver, Ravenclaw

HOGSMEDE, INVERNESS--Think you know your professors here at Hogwarts? You just might be surprised what they get up to in their off-duty hours.

According to Cooper Bingley, golden-curled inhabitant of a Flemish-style portrait in the faculty dormitory, our professors get up to some pretty surprising stuff when away from the classroom.

Transfiguration professor Minerva McGonagall has never made any secret of her skill as an animagus. But you might be surprised how playfully she flaunts it when no one but the portraits are watching. Skinny Minnie, as she was known in her schoolgirl days, loves to stair rail surf in her fluffy slippers. While we're all tucked in our dormitory beds, she can usually be found sliding slipper-footed from staircase to staircase, top of the castle to the bottom, only to POOF--transform into her tabby cat form for a perfect landing every time.

Divination professor Sibyll Trelawney might have the gift of the inner eye, but her outer eye? Not so gifted. In fact, her eyesight is so bad, she's been caught not once, but a half dozen times snogging the portrait of Sir Cadogan. Granted, he is a dashing figure in his shiny armor, but surely his painted face could not have felt quite right.

Laughter might be the best medicine, but it is music that soothes the savage breast of our hospital wing matron Poppy Pomfrey. Both portraits and castle ghosts alike confirm that she loves to sing in the shower. Indeed, the ghosts gather three times a week to hear her belt out Puccini and Mozart arias.

"Madam Pomfrey's voice is an utter marvel of mellifluousness," said the Fat Friar, Hufflepuff house ghost. "It is a tragic loss to the musical world that she suffers such petrifying stage fright. "Alas, only we ghosts, portraits and occasional house elf ever have the joy of experiencing her tremendous talent."


Laurel Garver is Thestral Gazette's editor-in-chief and communications secretary for S.P.E.W. She sings in Hogwarts choir, dabbles in Mermish poetry and tirelessly campaigns for an intramural Pegasus polo team.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

Which professor's off-hours activities surprise you most?
Thursday, June 30, 2011 Laurel Garver
by Laurel Garver, Ravenclaw

HOGSMEDE, INVERNESS--Think you know your professors here at Hogwarts? You just might be surprised what they get up to in their off-duty hours.

According to Cooper Bingley, golden-curled inhabitant of a Flemish-style portrait in the faculty dormitory, our professors get up to some pretty surprising stuff when away from the classroom.

Transfiguration professor Minerva McGonagall has never made any secret of her skill as an animagus. But you might be surprised how playfully she flaunts it when no one but the portraits are watching. Skinny Minnie, as she was known in her schoolgirl days, loves to stair rail surf in her fluffy slippers. While we're all tucked in our dormitory beds, she can usually be found sliding slipper-footed from staircase to staircase, top of the castle to the bottom, only to POOF--transform into her tabby cat form for a perfect landing every time.

Divination professor Sibyll Trelawney might have the gift of the inner eye, but her outer eye? Not so gifted. In fact, her eyesight is so bad, she's been caught not once, but a half dozen times snogging the portrait of Sir Cadogan. Granted, he is a dashing figure in his shiny armor, but surely his painted face could not have felt quite right.

Laughter might be the best medicine, but it is music that soothes the savage breast of our hospital wing matron Poppy Pomfrey. Both portraits and castle ghosts alike confirm that she loves to sing in the shower. Indeed, the ghosts gather three times a week to hear her belt out Puccini and Mozart arias.

"Madam Pomfrey's voice is an utter marvel of mellifluousness," said the Fat Friar, Hufflepuff house ghost. "It is a tragic loss to the musical world that she suffers such petrifying stage fright. "Alas, only we ghosts, portraits and occasional house elf ever have the joy of experiencing her tremendous talent."


Laurel Garver is Thestral Gazette's editor-in-chief and communications secretary for S.P.E.W. She sings in Hogwarts choir, dabbles in Mermish poetry and tirelessly campaigns for an intramural Pegasus polo team.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

Which professor's off-hours activities surprise you most?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Today's post isn't about smooth talkers in fiction (though they're always fun to read and to write), it's about a creativity tool I rediscovered: magnetic poetry.

I recall magnetic poetry being the hot new thing back in the mid-1990s, usually sold in bookstore gift sections. Several local coffee shops near me kept cookie sheets coated with the small magnetized pieces of type you could arrange into forms of expression.

The challenge was to work with the words at hand and arrange them into something at least partially coherent. The truly patient would dig through the sticky bits to find just the right words. The impatient would sacrifice coherence. The guffawing teenagers usually left behind suggestive little ditties like this: white curve / in a window / moon rise / blush and run.

I picked up a new set of magnetic poetry at a flea market over the weekend--the "romance" set, which I knew would have lots of fun additions to the two sets I already own. My daughter and I noodled around for a good forty minutes trying different combinations.

My creativity was spurred by three words that had come linked together on one of the perforated sheets: "slow," "velvet" and "dance."

Here's what resulted:


I noticed a few interesting things working in this medium. First, one tends to go light with using articles, because who wants to spend twenty minutes digging for an "a" or "an"? Second, odd combinations pop up all the time and can cause your subject and tone can shift dramatically as you compose. This piece shifted when the word "pleasure" caught my eye. I got thinking what a cliched concept it often is and let my imagination roam for new ways to conceive it.

If you haven't ever played with magnetic poetry, I highly recommend it as a warm-up tool. Seeing stacks of words randomly juxtaposed will stir your imagination in wonderful ways.

Have you ever played with magnetic poetry sets? If you were to take the words I used in my little ditty, how would you rearrange them?
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 Laurel Garver
Today's post isn't about smooth talkers in fiction (though they're always fun to read and to write), it's about a creativity tool I rediscovered: magnetic poetry.

I recall magnetic poetry being the hot new thing back in the mid-1990s, usually sold in bookstore gift sections. Several local coffee shops near me kept cookie sheets coated with the small magnetized pieces of type you could arrange into forms of expression.

The challenge was to work with the words at hand and arrange them into something at least partially coherent. The truly patient would dig through the sticky bits to find just the right words. The impatient would sacrifice coherence. The guffawing teenagers usually left behind suggestive little ditties like this: white curve / in a window / moon rise / blush and run.

I picked up a new set of magnetic poetry at a flea market over the weekend--the "romance" set, which I knew would have lots of fun additions to the two sets I already own. My daughter and I noodled around for a good forty minutes trying different combinations.

My creativity was spurred by three words that had come linked together on one of the perforated sheets: "slow," "velvet" and "dance."

Here's what resulted:


I noticed a few interesting things working in this medium. First, one tends to go light with using articles, because who wants to spend twenty minutes digging for an "a" or "an"? Second, odd combinations pop up all the time and can cause your subject and tone can shift dramatically as you compose. This piece shifted when the word "pleasure" caught my eye. I got thinking what a cliched concept it often is and let my imagination roam for new ways to conceive it.

If you haven't ever played with magnetic poetry, I highly recommend it as a warm-up tool. Seeing stacks of words randomly juxtaposed will stir your imagination in wonderful ways.

Have you ever played with magnetic poetry sets? If you were to take the words I used in my little ditty, how would you rearrange them?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

by Renaliss Divine, Gryffindor

It’s no secret that things have been a tad willy-nilly throughout Hogwarts castle of late. Students are painfully aware of the headmaster’s absence. Even the teachers are having trouble keeping events close to the vest. But this reporter has witnessed firsthand encounters that cannot be dismissed or ignored.

The once loyal and faithful creatures we have relied upon to keep the castle’s day-to-day tasks running smoothly appear to have gone mental. Luxuries that students and teachers alike have grown accustomed to have been thrown into disarray. What game they are playing at remains to be seen.

Of one thing we can all be certain…the house elves are hereby out of control.

Since the inception of Hogwarts, house elves have lived comfortably within its walls and have been happy to go about the usual business of their station. That is no longer the case. And who is their would-be target, you ask?

First years.

Yes…as if the task of being a first-year witch of wizard were not daunting enough, they have now become the brunt of seemingly unending pranks, though others are inevitably affected as well.

The accounts seemed innocent enough at first. First years were locked out of Gryffindor tower when the Fat Lady insisted that the pass code had changed. Then the stairways continued to move, trapping a group of Ravenclaw girls, who fell into fits of hysteria. Professor Sprout herself was overheard telling another teacher about unspeakable rashes breaking out among her first-year Hufflepuffs after a routine Herbology lesson. No one knows when her classes will resume.

The most eye-opening accounts surfaced when this reporter herself witnessed the elves, who are normally quite evasive, hexing food and placing enchantments on personal items. Events became even more dicey when the girls’ lavatory exploded, flooding an upper corridor and drenching a group of first-year Slytherins. Teachers were summoned immediately to help with the clean-up.

While humorous in nature, these pranks are clearly uncharacteristic of these fair, gentle creatures. So the question is obvious…what could be possessing the elves to act this way? And who has the power to override our dear headmaster? You can rest assured that this reporter intends to find out. Stay tuned.

Renaliss Divine is a sixth year Griffyndor who enjoys concocting new potions that can cure any hair or skin ailment. She is a slave to fashion, especially when tweaking up a plain old uniform. (If you need to borrow shoes, girls...this is your witch!) She blogs as her alter ego, Renae Mercado, at http://renaemercado.blogspot.com/.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

Who do you think is making the Hogwarts house elves behave so badly?
Thursday, June 23, 2011 Laurel Garver
by Renaliss Divine, Gryffindor

It’s no secret that things have been a tad willy-nilly throughout Hogwarts castle of late. Students are painfully aware of the headmaster’s absence. Even the teachers are having trouble keeping events close to the vest. But this reporter has witnessed firsthand encounters that cannot be dismissed or ignored.

The once loyal and faithful creatures we have relied upon to keep the castle’s day-to-day tasks running smoothly appear to have gone mental. Luxuries that students and teachers alike have grown accustomed to have been thrown into disarray. What game they are playing at remains to be seen.

Of one thing we can all be certain…the house elves are hereby out of control.

Since the inception of Hogwarts, house elves have lived comfortably within its walls and have been happy to go about the usual business of their station. That is no longer the case. And who is their would-be target, you ask?

First years.

Yes…as if the task of being a first-year witch of wizard were not daunting enough, they have now become the brunt of seemingly unending pranks, though others are inevitably affected as well.

The accounts seemed innocent enough at first. First years were locked out of Gryffindor tower when the Fat Lady insisted that the pass code had changed. Then the stairways continued to move, trapping a group of Ravenclaw girls, who fell into fits of hysteria. Professor Sprout herself was overheard telling another teacher about unspeakable rashes breaking out among her first-year Hufflepuffs after a routine Herbology lesson. No one knows when her classes will resume.

The most eye-opening accounts surfaced when this reporter herself witnessed the elves, who are normally quite evasive, hexing food and placing enchantments on personal items. Events became even more dicey when the girls’ lavatory exploded, flooding an upper corridor and drenching a group of first-year Slytherins. Teachers were summoned immediately to help with the clean-up.

While humorous in nature, these pranks are clearly uncharacteristic of these fair, gentle creatures. So the question is obvious…what could be possessing the elves to act this way? And who has the power to override our dear headmaster? You can rest assured that this reporter intends to find out. Stay tuned.

Renaliss Divine is a sixth year Griffyndor who enjoys concocting new potions that can cure any hair or skin ailment. She is a slave to fashion, especially when tweaking up a plain old uniform. (If you need to borrow shoes, girls...this is your witch!) She blogs as her alter ego, Renae Mercado, at http://renaemercado.blogspot.com/.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

Who do you think is making the Hogwarts house elves behave so badly?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dear Editor-on-call,

Why doesn't MS Word like the word "then" after a comma?
For example: I juggled a fish and fire batons, then fell off the tightrope.

Sincerely,
Then Pecked
a.k.a. Stephanie Thornton


Dear Pecked,

Word flags this because you're asking "then" to function in a way that's ungrammatical. "Then" is not a coordinating conjunction, that is, a linking word in the FANBOYS family: "for," "and," "nor," "but," "or," "yet," "so." Word has been programmed to want the coordinating conjunction "and" inserted between the comma and "then" to make the sentence grammatically correct.

Your sentence should read like this:
I juggled a fish and fire batons, and then fell off the tightrope.

(Side note: "Then" functions like a conjunction only in "If..., then..." constructions like this:
If I juggle fire batons, then I will fall off the tightrope.)

What is "then"?
"Then" is usually labeled as a type of adverb. Notice that you could feasibly move "then" around in your sentence and it would still make sense:

I juggled a fish and fire batons, and then fell off the tightrope.
I juggled a fish and fire batons, and fell off the tightrope then.
I juggled a fish and fire batons, and fell, then, off the tightrope.

You can't attempt the same trick with the "and." That mobility is a signal that "then" is functioning as a modifier, in this case clarifying when the subject fell.

What about my style?
Here's the rub--you might feel that the addition of "and" to your sentence feels clunky and wrecks your fiction style. You might argue that the comma is functioning in place of the "and," or that the "and" is understood and can be omitted, like the "you" in commands like "Come here!" Perhaps your character voice is deliberately ungrammatical.

If any of these lines of reasoning apply, and you're sick and tired of Word nagging you to add conjunctions you don't want, you can customize your grammar check function. Here's a very helpful tutorial: Customize the Word grammar checker to match your style.

For more details on the types of conjunctions and how they function, click HERE.

What else does Word's grammar checker flag that puzzles you? How might you customize your grammar checker?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 Laurel Garver
Dear Editor-on-call,

Why doesn't MS Word like the word "then" after a comma?
For example: I juggled a fish and fire batons, then fell off the tightrope.

Sincerely,
Then Pecked
a.k.a. Stephanie Thornton


Dear Pecked,

Word flags this because you're asking "then" to function in a way that's ungrammatical. "Then" is not a coordinating conjunction, that is, a linking word in the FANBOYS family: "for," "and," "nor," "but," "or," "yet," "so." Word has been programmed to want the coordinating conjunction "and" inserted between the comma and "then" to make the sentence grammatically correct.

Your sentence should read like this:
I juggled a fish and fire batons, and then fell off the tightrope.

(Side note: "Then" functions like a conjunction only in "If..., then..." constructions like this:
If I juggle fire batons, then I will fall off the tightrope.)

What is "then"?
"Then" is usually labeled as a type of adverb. Notice that you could feasibly move "then" around in your sentence and it would still make sense:

I juggled a fish and fire batons, and then fell off the tightrope.
I juggled a fish and fire batons, and fell off the tightrope then.
I juggled a fish and fire batons, and fell, then, off the tightrope.

You can't attempt the same trick with the "and." That mobility is a signal that "then" is functioning as a modifier, in this case clarifying when the subject fell.

What about my style?
Here's the rub--you might feel that the addition of "and" to your sentence feels clunky and wrecks your fiction style. You might argue that the comma is functioning in place of the "and," or that the "and" is understood and can be omitted, like the "you" in commands like "Come here!" Perhaps your character voice is deliberately ungrammatical.

If any of these lines of reasoning apply, and you're sick and tired of Word nagging you to add conjunctions you don't want, you can customize your grammar check function. Here's a very helpful tutorial: Customize the Word grammar checker to match your style.

For more details on the types of conjunctions and how they function, click HERE.

What else does Word's grammar checker flag that puzzles you? How might you customize your grammar checker?

Thursday, June 16, 2011


By Runcel P. Yomeh, Hogwarts alum

HOGSMEDE, INVERNESS--The merpeople in Hogwarts lake have always been a point of extreme curiosity to the wizarding world. They are a notoriously secretive society, but this exclusive peek into their watery world was not at all a challenge to your top Magical Creatures Investigator. Gryffidor alumna Runcel P. Yomeh is pleased to present details in the formerly unknown mating ritual of the merpeople.

Most beings find love through physical attraction or mental connection. Not the mermaids—they seek it through violence. From the time they are able to hold a weapon, merpeople are trained in combat. Often mistaken as blood-thirsty and terrifying, merpeople can be very placid when no outsiders are around. But when a relationship is on the line, they must show no weakness. Love is found through hand-to-scaly hand combat.

It flares during mating season in early summer, when the waters begin to heat up. Females get a crazed look, like they ate too much gurdyroot. They flash the reflective underside of their tails to attract an audience. Males can't help but be drawn to this display—-you can see the attraction connection in their slimy eyes. Once the female picks a worthy looking male out of the crowd, she grabs a spear, and the battle is on.

Males have no choice but fight for love, or die unworthy of it. They must defend themselves but not kill the female in the process; hold their own but not get killed themselves. It's a tricky balance that isn't always accomplished.

This reporter, through top secret witchy ways, got a firsthand look at the mating battle between one young female and her desired male.

The young male fought valiantly, not a scratch on him (she was a lovely match, after all), until the very end when his new mate pinned him to the mushy lake floor with her spear tip. But fret not, dear readers, this is how every successful mating battle ends. The male pinned to something by something sharp. (Though it's polite to avoid the heart or head if it's a win!)

There was a short, impromptu celebration for the couple immediately following the battle. The two then retreated to more private quarters to seal the deal.

Merpeople mate for life, much like hinkypunks. The new couple looked totally at ease with one another. But my investigation of the merpeople’s mating ritual was cut short. The giant octopus was not fooled by my disguise and I had to high-fin it out of there.

Next time, buckle up for the flight patterns of Hippogriffs vs. Thestrals. Who is really the king of the sky? The answer will stupefy!

Runcel P. Yomeh, alumna of Gryffidor house, holds a degree in Magical Creature Studies and prefers the quiet, stealthy life of investigating the unknown. She blogs as her alter ego, Colene Murphy, at The Journey.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

Back issues of the Thestral Gazette:
Issue 1: Mrs. Norris's secret identity revealed
Issue 2: Being bullied? Weasel your way out.
Issue 3: Viktor Krum Reunites with Former Girlfriend
Issue 4: Umbridge Unmasked
Issue 5: Ask Abby Gabby: Advice for Wizards and Witches
Issue 6: Cauldron Chatter

Which magical creatures would you like Ms. Yomeh to investigate next?
Thursday, June 16, 2011 Laurel Garver

By Runcel P. Yomeh, Hogwarts alum

HOGSMEDE, INVERNESS--The merpeople in Hogwarts lake have always been a point of extreme curiosity to the wizarding world. They are a notoriously secretive society, but this exclusive peek into their watery world was not at all a challenge to your top Magical Creatures Investigator. Gryffidor alumna Runcel P. Yomeh is pleased to present details in the formerly unknown mating ritual of the merpeople.

Most beings find love through physical attraction or mental connection. Not the mermaids—they seek it through violence. From the time they are able to hold a weapon, merpeople are trained in combat. Often mistaken as blood-thirsty and terrifying, merpeople can be very placid when no outsiders are around. But when a relationship is on the line, they must show no weakness. Love is found through hand-to-scaly hand combat.

It flares during mating season in early summer, when the waters begin to heat up. Females get a crazed look, like they ate too much gurdyroot. They flash the reflective underside of their tails to attract an audience. Males can't help but be drawn to this display—-you can see the attraction connection in their slimy eyes. Once the female picks a worthy looking male out of the crowd, she grabs a spear, and the battle is on.

Males have no choice but fight for love, or die unworthy of it. They must defend themselves but not kill the female in the process; hold their own but not get killed themselves. It's a tricky balance that isn't always accomplished.

This reporter, through top secret witchy ways, got a firsthand look at the mating battle between one young female and her desired male.

The young male fought valiantly, not a scratch on him (she was a lovely match, after all), until the very end when his new mate pinned him to the mushy lake floor with her spear tip. But fret not, dear readers, this is how every successful mating battle ends. The male pinned to something by something sharp. (Though it's polite to avoid the heart or head if it's a win!)

There was a short, impromptu celebration for the couple immediately following the battle. The two then retreated to more private quarters to seal the deal.

Merpeople mate for life, much like hinkypunks. The new couple looked totally at ease with one another. But my investigation of the merpeople’s mating ritual was cut short. The giant octopus was not fooled by my disguise and I had to high-fin it out of there.

Next time, buckle up for the flight patterns of Hippogriffs vs. Thestrals. Who is really the king of the sky? The answer will stupefy!

Runcel P. Yomeh, alumna of Gryffidor house, holds a degree in Magical Creature Studies and prefers the quiet, stealthy life of investigating the unknown. She blogs as her alter ego, Colene Murphy, at The Journey.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

Back issues of the Thestral Gazette:
Issue 1: Mrs. Norris's secret identity revealed
Issue 2: Being bullied? Weasel your way out.
Issue 3: Viktor Krum Reunites with Former Girlfriend
Issue 4: Umbridge Unmasked
Issue 5: Ask Abby Gabby: Advice for Wizards and Witches
Issue 6: Cauldron Chatter

Which magical creatures would you like Ms. Yomeh to investigate next?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dear Editor-on-call,

How do we figure out where the line is between a stylized voice/dialect vs. proper grammar? I know this is a hugely "case-by-case" basis, but I often find the pieces I write with a bit of a dialect or style get corrected by critiquers for grammar, effectively changing how the character would think.

Sincerely,
Dialectable Dilemma
a.k.a. Sophia at Sophia the Writer


Dear Di,

I suspect the subtext of your question is this: "What do you do when your critiquers are so zealous in their campaign to promote 'good writing' that they suck all the voice out of your work?"

Let's face it, reading is a subjective thing. Some people like to experience cultures beyond their own, to meet people very unlike themselves--and others don't. Any literary device you choose to use will have its fans and its detractors.

As I see it, you have a few options in this scenario.

A. You keep changing your book trying to please everyone until you hate it so much you shelve it.

Can we say neurotic need for affirmation? Nothing will make you quit writing faster than trying to be everything to everyone.

B. You ignore everything the grammar zealots say, because they obviously don't get you.

Of course, they very well might have good insights into non-dialect sections. Do you really want to lose that too?

C. You ask only those who get what you're trying to do to read and critique.

Here, you run the danger of stagnating, because these friendly folks won't push you to change and grow.

D. You provide requests for specific feedback when asking anyone to critique:
"This story contains dialect. Please highlight spots that you think aren't quite reading smoothly."

If you're getting a lot of advice that feels useless, consider how you can be more explicit about what would be useful. Every reader goes into some default mode when they aren't given instruction. For some, the default is "find a dozen nice things to say." For others, the default is "find every instance of nonstandard usage and sloppy grammar."


You can probably guess which option I favor (D, of course!). While it's a good idea to periodically reassess how healthy or dysfunctional your critique relationships are, don't be too quick to sever ties with those who seem too harsh--or give unhelpful advice. Most folks who get into critique groups do so with the intention to learn and to help. Sometimes all that's needed is a meeting session in which you establish some ground rules, then ask for specific kinds of feedback whenever you submit work to be critiqued.

If that doesn't change things, you can decide to ignore certain kinds of critique (like grammar correcting dialect), mull the crits and weigh their merits, or simply leave if the overwhelming feeling from the group is constant negativity and put-downs.

While I haven't read it myself, I've heard others recommend The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Make Revisions, Self-Edit, and Give and Receive Feedback by Becky Levine as a great resource for both new and established critique groups to function well.

And when it comes to dialect, go light. And here are some great links from folks more experienced than I on the topic:

The Uses and Abuses of Dialect
Grammar Girl: Writing Accents and Dialects
Writing Dialect: It's in the Rhythm

How have you dealt with unhelpful critiques? What's your take on dialect in fiction?
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 Laurel Garver
Dear Editor-on-call,

How do we figure out where the line is between a stylized voice/dialect vs. proper grammar? I know this is a hugely "case-by-case" basis, but I often find the pieces I write with a bit of a dialect or style get corrected by critiquers for grammar, effectively changing how the character would think.

Sincerely,
Dialectable Dilemma
a.k.a. Sophia at Sophia the Writer


Dear Di,

I suspect the subtext of your question is this: "What do you do when your critiquers are so zealous in their campaign to promote 'good writing' that they suck all the voice out of your work?"

Let's face it, reading is a subjective thing. Some people like to experience cultures beyond their own, to meet people very unlike themselves--and others don't. Any literary device you choose to use will have its fans and its detractors.

As I see it, you have a few options in this scenario.

A. You keep changing your book trying to please everyone until you hate it so much you shelve it.

Can we say neurotic need for affirmation? Nothing will make you quit writing faster than trying to be everything to everyone.

B. You ignore everything the grammar zealots say, because they obviously don't get you.

Of course, they very well might have good insights into non-dialect sections. Do you really want to lose that too?

C. You ask only those who get what you're trying to do to read and critique.

Here, you run the danger of stagnating, because these friendly folks won't push you to change and grow.

D. You provide requests for specific feedback when asking anyone to critique:
"This story contains dialect. Please highlight spots that you think aren't quite reading smoothly."

If you're getting a lot of advice that feels useless, consider how you can be more explicit about what would be useful. Every reader goes into some default mode when they aren't given instruction. For some, the default is "find a dozen nice things to say." For others, the default is "find every instance of nonstandard usage and sloppy grammar."


You can probably guess which option I favor (D, of course!). While it's a good idea to periodically reassess how healthy or dysfunctional your critique relationships are, don't be too quick to sever ties with those who seem too harsh--or give unhelpful advice. Most folks who get into critique groups do so with the intention to learn and to help. Sometimes all that's needed is a meeting session in which you establish some ground rules, then ask for specific kinds of feedback whenever you submit work to be critiqued.

If that doesn't change things, you can decide to ignore certain kinds of critique (like grammar correcting dialect), mull the crits and weigh their merits, or simply leave if the overwhelming feeling from the group is constant negativity and put-downs.

While I haven't read it myself, I've heard others recommend The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Make Revisions, Self-Edit, and Give and Receive Feedback by Becky Levine as a great resource for both new and established critique groups to function well.

And when it comes to dialect, go light. And here are some great links from folks more experienced than I on the topic:

The Uses and Abuses of Dialect
Grammar Girl: Writing Accents and Dialects
Writing Dialect: It's in the Rhythm

How have you dealt with unhelpful critiques? What's your take on dialect in fiction?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

by Belicia Babble, Ravenclaw

It’s not just potions brewing at Hogwarts this year! Find out all the juicy details about your friends, classmates, and professors in my gossip column. Names have been cloaked to protect the innocent (and by innocent, I mean me!).

• Which colorfully-named Gryffindor girl has set her sights on a red-headed Keeper? Some late night spell casting might be in their future, but only if she can brew up enough love potion to snag him!

• Terror in the tea leaves! A Hogwarts professor has predicted the death of yet another student. I suggest he watch out for falling cauldrons!

• This Slytherin boy has found some admirers in a pair of first year girls, though more than one witch wants to know what they’re doing lurking around the halls with those scales.

• Which radish-wearing fifth year managed to charm her way into a high-profile Christmas party? It seems being friends with the #1 enemy of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named does have its perks.

• Get ready for a duel! This pair of (allegedly) platonic friends was recently spotted having a full-blown row over school books. Turns out someone can’t stand the thought of not being first in Potions!

• This pigtailed Hufflepuff got a little jittery before last year’s O.W.L.’s, but now friends are saying she’s gone weak in the knees for a certain Herbology classmate.

• Which member of S.P.E.W. recently inherited a house-elf? If he believes in elvish welfare so much, why won’t he just free the poor creature?

• She’s at it again! This red-haired flirt was recently seen canoodling behind a tapestry with her fellow quidditch teammate. 10 points for Gryffindor?

• This Ravenclaw beauty may have a new beau on her arm, but the word around the castle is that she’s been weeping day and night over the loss of her “chosen” guy.

• A certain Slytherin alumni doesn’t want you to know the awful truth – he was raised by muggles!

• Rumor has it that a know-it-all sixth year couldn’t keep her eyes off one of the Gryffindor quidditch team hopefuls during their recent tryouts. The player in question looked a little confused by her attentions… but quickly decided that he’d like to show her a few more of his moves.

• This Hogwarts professor has been seen slinking around the greenhouses late at night. Let’s hope Professor Sprout sics a mandrake on him!

Belicia Babble is the Thestral Gazette’s loose-lipped gossip reporter. She lives in Ravenclaw tower with Prattle, her Pygmy Puff, and loves prying into the personal lives of her classmates. Rumor has it she also blogs as the slightly more discrete Lisa Galek at Read. Write. Repeat.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

Back issues of the Thestral Gazette:
Issue 1: Mrs. Norris's secret identity revealed
Issue 2: Being bullied? Weasel your way out.
Issue 3: Viktor Krum Reunites with Former Girlfriend
Issue 4: Umbridge Unmasked
Issue 5: Ask Abby Gabby: Advice for Wizards and Witches

Which of these objects of rumor do you recognize?
Thursday, June 09, 2011 Laurel Garver
by Belicia Babble, Ravenclaw

It’s not just potions brewing at Hogwarts this year! Find out all the juicy details about your friends, classmates, and professors in my gossip column. Names have been cloaked to protect the innocent (and by innocent, I mean me!).

• Which colorfully-named Gryffindor girl has set her sights on a red-headed Keeper? Some late night spell casting might be in their future, but only if she can brew up enough love potion to snag him!

• Terror in the tea leaves! A Hogwarts professor has predicted the death of yet another student. I suggest he watch out for falling cauldrons!

• This Slytherin boy has found some admirers in a pair of first year girls, though more than one witch wants to know what they’re doing lurking around the halls with those scales.

• Which radish-wearing fifth year managed to charm her way into a high-profile Christmas party? It seems being friends with the #1 enemy of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named does have its perks.

• Get ready for a duel! This pair of (allegedly) platonic friends was recently spotted having a full-blown row over school books. Turns out someone can’t stand the thought of not being first in Potions!

• This pigtailed Hufflepuff got a little jittery before last year’s O.W.L.’s, but now friends are saying she’s gone weak in the knees for a certain Herbology classmate.

• Which member of S.P.E.W. recently inherited a house-elf? If he believes in elvish welfare so much, why won’t he just free the poor creature?

• She’s at it again! This red-haired flirt was recently seen canoodling behind a tapestry with her fellow quidditch teammate. 10 points for Gryffindor?

• This Ravenclaw beauty may have a new beau on her arm, but the word around the castle is that she’s been weeping day and night over the loss of her “chosen” guy.

• A certain Slytherin alumni doesn’t want you to know the awful truth – he was raised by muggles!

• Rumor has it that a know-it-all sixth year couldn’t keep her eyes off one of the Gryffindor quidditch team hopefuls during their recent tryouts. The player in question looked a little confused by her attentions… but quickly decided that he’d like to show her a few more of his moves.

• This Hogwarts professor has been seen slinking around the greenhouses late at night. Let’s hope Professor Sprout sics a mandrake on him!

Belicia Babble is the Thestral Gazette’s loose-lipped gossip reporter. She lives in Ravenclaw tower with Prattle, her Pygmy Puff, and loves prying into the personal lives of her classmates. Rumor has it she also blogs as the slightly more discrete Lisa Galek at Read. Write. Repeat.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

Back issues of the Thestral Gazette:
Issue 1: Mrs. Norris's secret identity revealed
Issue 2: Being bullied? Weasel your way out.
Issue 3: Viktor Krum Reunites with Former Girlfriend
Issue 4: Umbridge Unmasked
Issue 5: Ask Abby Gabby: Advice for Wizards and Witches

Which of these objects of rumor do you recognize?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Oh, happy day! I am pleased to announce the winners of my Triplicity celebration and contest.

I'll begin with the skills portion of the contest. This was a fun one to judge, though I think I may have pulled a muscle busting a gut too many times.

The World's Worst Metaphors and Similes winners are (in alpha order by author):

Kayeleen Hamblin of Kayeleen's Creation Corner

The water fell like the tinkling of a grown man with bladder incontinence.

PK Hrezo of My Fiction Addiction

He persistence was like that of a dog returning time and again with a slobbery rope toy no one wants to play with.

Janet Johnson of Musings of a Children's Writer

His suitcase was as heavy as Grandma's pudding and twice as tasty.


Okay, funny gals, you may choose any one of the following:
~a 10-page detailed critique
~10 pages of copy editing
~an editorial overview of up to 50 pages, outlining areas for growth
~a character naming consultation. I'll help you research and find/create up to three character names, any genre.

Please drop me a line at laurels (dot) leaves (at) gmail (dot) com to arrange your prize of my time/expertise.


And now for the lucky one, the winner of a $30 Amazon gift certificate!

Who do you suppose came up as my random drawing winner?

. . .

Wait for it...


Who will get an Amazon shopping spree?


Who, oh, who?

Seriously, who?

Are you tingling with anticipation yet?


How cruel can I be?


Tell us already!


Okay, okay, don't get violent, friends.

According to RANDOM.ORG,

who so efficiently scrambled my long, long list of entrants,

the winner is...

Jenna Wallace!
of Writing in the Dreamstate

Congrats, Jenna! Drop me a line at laurels (dot) leaves (at) gmail (dot) com with your preferred e-mail address and I'll arrange delivery of your $30 Amazon.com gift certificate. Happy shopping!

Don't forget to come back tomorrow for Thestral Thursday. That's right, it's another issue of our Hogwarts underground newspaper, the Thestral Gazette. The lovely Lisa Galek of Read. Write. Repeat. will bring us a batch of juicy school gossip gathered by her alter ego, Belicia Babble.

Which of the winning similes struck you as funniest? Why?
Wednesday, June 08, 2011 Laurel Garver
Oh, happy day! I am pleased to announce the winners of my Triplicity celebration and contest.

I'll begin with the skills portion of the contest. This was a fun one to judge, though I think I may have pulled a muscle busting a gut too many times.

The World's Worst Metaphors and Similes winners are (in alpha order by author):

Kayeleen Hamblin of Kayeleen's Creation Corner

The water fell like the tinkling of a grown man with bladder incontinence.

PK Hrezo of My Fiction Addiction

He persistence was like that of a dog returning time and again with a slobbery rope toy no one wants to play with.

Janet Johnson of Musings of a Children's Writer

His suitcase was as heavy as Grandma's pudding and twice as tasty.


Okay, funny gals, you may choose any one of the following:
~a 10-page detailed critique
~10 pages of copy editing
~an editorial overview of up to 50 pages, outlining areas for growth
~a character naming consultation. I'll help you research and find/create up to three character names, any genre.

Please drop me a line at laurels (dot) leaves (at) gmail (dot) com to arrange your prize of my time/expertise.


And now for the lucky one, the winner of a $30 Amazon gift certificate!

Who do you suppose came up as my random drawing winner?

. . .

Wait for it...


Who will get an Amazon shopping spree?


Who, oh, who?

Seriously, who?

Are you tingling with anticipation yet?


How cruel can I be?


Tell us already!


Okay, okay, don't get violent, friends.

According to RANDOM.ORG,

who so efficiently scrambled my long, long list of entrants,

the winner is...

Jenna Wallace!
of Writing in the Dreamstate

Congrats, Jenna! Drop me a line at laurels (dot) leaves (at) gmail (dot) com with your preferred e-mail address and I'll arrange delivery of your $30 Amazon.com gift certificate. Happy shopping!

Don't forget to come back tomorrow for Thestral Thursday. That's right, it's another issue of our Hogwarts underground newspaper, the Thestral Gazette. The lovely Lisa Galek of Read. Write. Repeat. will bring us a batch of juicy school gossip gathered by her alter ego, Belicia Babble.

Which of the winning similes struck you as funniest? Why?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Dear Editor-on-Call:

Any advice on staying in one tense while writing? I struggle with slipping between present and past tenses (first person). Is this issue something that improves with experience?

Tense about tense
a.k.a. Christine Danek (Christine's Journey)

Dear Tense,

Using a consistent verb tense does become easier with practice, but there are some simple things you can do now to help yourself.

Verb tense is a reflection of the when of your narrator sharing his/her story. You might find it useful to create some visuals to take you there (or "then") whenever you sit down to write.

Past tense narration
For most writers, past tense flows most naturally because it is the usual mode for discussing events. Every day, we tell others about the events of our lives after the fact. For example, you might arrive at the office and tell a co-worker, "You wouldn't believe what this bozo on the bus just did!" Or you might write in a journal, "In fifth period, a student got up during the exam and puked in my trash can."

Aside from the naturalness benefit, past tense narration give your characters psychological distance from the events and the lovely gift of hindsight. From a looking-back vantage point, your character can clue the reader in about which events are pivotal and can express attitudes about how well or badly s/he behaved in story events. Many of the typical tension-building phrases like "little did I know, my life was about to change forever" express hindsight and require past tense narration as well.

To create a visual, it's helpful to decide how long after the story events this storytelling is occurring. A week later? Six months? Three years? Go search for photos that represent the older, narrator version of the character, and the younger, active protagonist version of the character. Combine the two images. Show the narrator thinking about her past self with the words, "years ago, I..." or "last year, I..." or however you can best express the passage of time between the story actions and the storytelling. This visual can also help you develop voice.

Here's an example (please pardon my lame Photoshop skillz):


If you can't find photos and don't feel confident drawing, it may be enough to post a note on your computer screen: "Yesterday, I ...". This should remind you to have a think-back approach to your story.

You might also find it helpful to keep a short list of common verbs attached to your screen: was, had, saw, felt, thought, went, ran, talked, said, told.

Present tense narration
Present tense is more difficult to maintain, because it is not how we naturally tell stories. Seriously, do you go about your daily routine with a running commentary in your head describing what you're doing? Probably not.

So why write in present? Some writers say they like the immediacy. I don't feel that's reason enough, because this tense is so psychologically weird when you really think about it. What you do gain from present tense is lack of hindsight. You remove a character's ability to have any perspective on what's happening. He or she has to deal with story events as they come.

When might you want to remove hindsight and perspective? When you're presenting an unreliable narrator and/or when your story situation is most plausible and compelling if the character has no idea what the outcome will be.

Your visual reminders can be far simpler. Stick a note to your computer monitor that says, "Right now, I ..." You may also find it helpful to post a list of common verbs in present tense: am, is, talk, say, tell, go, feel, think, see, run.

Flashback caveat
Keep in mind that when you deal with flashback material--events occurring prior to the main story time frame--you should change tenses.

If your main story time frame is narrated in present tense, you would switch to past tense for flashbacks.

Example: As I sit in the windowsill and watch traffic flowing below, I remember [here's your time shift marker--everything after "I remember" is in past] the day ambulances swarmed on Columbus when some dude threatened to jump off the roof of April's building. She gave me a blow-by-blow of the whole freaky event as it went on above her.

If the main story is narrated in past tense, flashbacks should be in past perfect tense.

Example: As I sat in the windowsill and watched traffic flowing below, I remembered the day ambulances had swarmed on Columbus when some dude had threatened to jump off the roof of April's building. She'd given me a blow-by-blow of the whole freaky event as it had gone on above her.

Sorry I can't offer a foolproof method to ensure you never switch tenses. This is a discipline that takes time to develop.

If anyone has helpful tech tools to assist with verb tense issues, I'd love to hear about them!

What helps you maintain your story's verb tense? Which tense comes more naturally to you? Why do you think so?

A quick reminder: today is the FINAL DAY to enter my Triplicity contest and prize drawing! Click HERE for details.
Tuesday, June 07, 2011 Laurel Garver
Dear Editor-on-Call:

Any advice on staying in one tense while writing? I struggle with slipping between present and past tenses (first person). Is this issue something that improves with experience?

Tense about tense
a.k.a. Christine Danek (Christine's Journey)

Dear Tense,

Using a consistent verb tense does become easier with practice, but there are some simple things you can do now to help yourself.

Verb tense is a reflection of the when of your narrator sharing his/her story. You might find it useful to create some visuals to take you there (or "then") whenever you sit down to write.

Past tense narration
For most writers, past tense flows most naturally because it is the usual mode for discussing events. Every day, we tell others about the events of our lives after the fact. For example, you might arrive at the office and tell a co-worker, "You wouldn't believe what this bozo on the bus just did!" Or you might write in a journal, "In fifth period, a student got up during the exam and puked in my trash can."

Aside from the naturalness benefit, past tense narration give your characters psychological distance from the events and the lovely gift of hindsight. From a looking-back vantage point, your character can clue the reader in about which events are pivotal and can express attitudes about how well or badly s/he behaved in story events. Many of the typical tension-building phrases like "little did I know, my life was about to change forever" express hindsight and require past tense narration as well.

To create a visual, it's helpful to decide how long after the story events this storytelling is occurring. A week later? Six months? Three years? Go search for photos that represent the older, narrator version of the character, and the younger, active protagonist version of the character. Combine the two images. Show the narrator thinking about her past self with the words, "years ago, I..." or "last year, I..." or however you can best express the passage of time between the story actions and the storytelling. This visual can also help you develop voice.

Here's an example (please pardon my lame Photoshop skillz):


If you can't find photos and don't feel confident drawing, it may be enough to post a note on your computer screen: "Yesterday, I ...". This should remind you to have a think-back approach to your story.

You might also find it helpful to keep a short list of common verbs attached to your screen: was, had, saw, felt, thought, went, ran, talked, said, told.

Present tense narration
Present tense is more difficult to maintain, because it is not how we naturally tell stories. Seriously, do you go about your daily routine with a running commentary in your head describing what you're doing? Probably not.

So why write in present? Some writers say they like the immediacy. I don't feel that's reason enough, because this tense is so psychologically weird when you really think about it. What you do gain from present tense is lack of hindsight. You remove a character's ability to have any perspective on what's happening. He or she has to deal with story events as they come.

When might you want to remove hindsight and perspective? When you're presenting an unreliable narrator and/or when your story situation is most plausible and compelling if the character has no idea what the outcome will be.

Your visual reminders can be far simpler. Stick a note to your computer monitor that says, "Right now, I ..." You may also find it helpful to post a list of common verbs in present tense: am, is, talk, say, tell, go, feel, think, see, run.

Flashback caveat
Keep in mind that when you deal with flashback material--events occurring prior to the main story time frame--you should change tenses.

If your main story time frame is narrated in present tense, you would switch to past tense for flashbacks.

Example: As I sit in the windowsill and watch traffic flowing below, I remember [here's your time shift marker--everything after "I remember" is in past] the day ambulances swarmed on Columbus when some dude threatened to jump off the roof of April's building. She gave me a blow-by-blow of the whole freaky event as it went on above her.

If the main story is narrated in past tense, flashbacks should be in past perfect tense.

Example: As I sat in the windowsill and watched traffic flowing below, I remembered the day ambulances had swarmed on Columbus when some dude had threatened to jump off the roof of April's building. She'd given me a blow-by-blow of the whole freaky event as it had gone on above her.

Sorry I can't offer a foolproof method to ensure you never switch tenses. This is a discipline that takes time to develop.

If anyone has helpful tech tools to assist with verb tense issues, I'd love to hear about them!

What helps you maintain your story's verb tense? Which tense comes more naturally to you? Why do you think so?

A quick reminder: today is the FINAL DAY to enter my Triplicity contest and prize drawing! Click HERE for details.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

My name may be Abby Gabby, but there's no need to use the stupify spell to keep me from gabbing! My lips are zipped, so ask this Ravenclaw gal for advice and I’ll give you an answer!


Dear Abby Gabby,
My erm...mandrake plant has horrible acne. How should I clear it up? I’ve tried everything! It really hates being made fun of in school. Especially in potions in front of Professor Snape.
~Spotted in Hufflepuff

Dear Spots,
While I find it hard to believe your mandrake plant is taking potions with Professor Snape, I’ll play along because I am kind and generous like that and would never put a student on the spot. Ha, get it? On the spot?

Anyhoo, mix up this dandy little brew I conjured up several years ago while experimenting with muggle chemicals:
~2 drops of what muggles call “Windex”
~an eye of newt
~a drop of spider venom (you can get Aragog to donate some)
~a pinch of belly button lint

Mix it all together and say: Acnio Destructo. Then apply to your—I mean, the mandrake’s—face and let sit for four hours. Rise off with cool water. Tip: do not keep on longer than four hours or else your face may just melt off.

I assume NO responsibility for the consequences. But I must say, my face has been as clear as a baby’s bottom for quite a few years now.
~AG


Dear Abby Gabby,
I can’t seem to get rid of this pesky house elf that keeps following me around. Any advice?
~Paranoid in Gryffindor

Dear Paranoid,
Trick his master into giving the elf his sock. Then the elf will be free and out of your hair. Works every time. Tip: keep the house elf as a friend, though—you never know when you may need him.
~AG


Dear Abby Gabby,
I caught my boyfriend sneaking off into the Room of Requirement the other day by himself. I tried to follow him in, but it shut me out. What could he possibly be doing by himself in there?
~Confused in Slytherin

Dear Confused,
There are two possible answers to this one:
A. He is meeting another girl, in which case you have my permission to put a hex on them both.
B. He is, um, how should I say this, meditating. In which case, leave him be and give him a couple extra smooches at the end of the day.
~AG


Dear Abby Gabby,
The boy I like has a disgusting pet rat. It’s been in his family for years. I really want to go out with him, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to his rat. What should I do?
~Grossed out in Gryffindor

Dear Grossy,
What you need is a cat. A big, fat, orange cat. Every time you come around, the rat will run away. Then you can cuddle with your dreamy wizard without worrying about the nasty rat. Tip: keep a close eye on that rat—if it doesn’t keel over from old age in the next few years, you may have more than just a rat on your hands.
~AG

Thestral Gazette advice columnist Abby Gabby, a member of the Ravenclaw house, prefers to keep her true identity a secret (for the sake of her trusted advisees, of course). She loves divination, lending a shoulder to cry on, and quite possibly has the slightest crush on Professor Firenze. She blogs as her alter ego, Abby Minard at Above Water.


Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

Back issues of the Thestral Gazette:
Issue 1: Mrs. Norris's secret identity revealed
Issue 2: Being bullied? Weasel your way out.
Issue 3: Viktor Krum Reunites with Former Girlfriend
Issue 4: Umbridge Unmasked

What questions do you have for Abby Gabby?
Thursday, June 02, 2011 Laurel Garver
My name may be Abby Gabby, but there's no need to use the stupify spell to keep me from gabbing! My lips are zipped, so ask this Ravenclaw gal for advice and I’ll give you an answer!


Dear Abby Gabby,
My erm...mandrake plant has horrible acne. How should I clear it up? I’ve tried everything! It really hates being made fun of in school. Especially in potions in front of Professor Snape.
~Spotted in Hufflepuff

Dear Spots,
While I find it hard to believe your mandrake plant is taking potions with Professor Snape, I’ll play along because I am kind and generous like that and would never put a student on the spot. Ha, get it? On the spot?

Anyhoo, mix up this dandy little brew I conjured up several years ago while experimenting with muggle chemicals:
~2 drops of what muggles call “Windex”
~an eye of newt
~a drop of spider venom (you can get Aragog to donate some)
~a pinch of belly button lint

Mix it all together and say: Acnio Destructo. Then apply to your—I mean, the mandrake’s—face and let sit for four hours. Rise off with cool water. Tip: do not keep on longer than four hours or else your face may just melt off.

I assume NO responsibility for the consequences. But I must say, my face has been as clear as a baby’s bottom for quite a few years now.
~AG


Dear Abby Gabby,
I can’t seem to get rid of this pesky house elf that keeps following me around. Any advice?
~Paranoid in Gryffindor

Dear Paranoid,
Trick his master into giving the elf his sock. Then the elf will be free and out of your hair. Works every time. Tip: keep the house elf as a friend, though—you never know when you may need him.
~AG


Dear Abby Gabby,
I caught my boyfriend sneaking off into the Room of Requirement the other day by himself. I tried to follow him in, but it shut me out. What could he possibly be doing by himself in there?
~Confused in Slytherin

Dear Confused,
There are two possible answers to this one:
A. He is meeting another girl, in which case you have my permission to put a hex on them both.
B. He is, um, how should I say this, meditating. In which case, leave him be and give him a couple extra smooches at the end of the day.
~AG


Dear Abby Gabby,
The boy I like has a disgusting pet rat. It’s been in his family for years. I really want to go out with him, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to his rat. What should I do?
~Grossed out in Gryffindor

Dear Grossy,
What you need is a cat. A big, fat, orange cat. Every time you come around, the rat will run away. Then you can cuddle with your dreamy wizard without worrying about the nasty rat. Tip: keep a close eye on that rat—if it doesn’t keel over from old age in the next few years, you may have more than just a rat on your hands.
~AG

Thestral Gazette advice columnist Abby Gabby, a member of the Ravenclaw house, prefers to keep her true identity a secret (for the sake of her trusted advisees, of course). She loves divination, lending a shoulder to cry on, and quite possibly has the slightest crush on Professor Firenze. She blogs as her alter ego, Abby Minard at Above Water.


Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

Back issues of the Thestral Gazette:
Issue 1: Mrs. Norris's secret identity revealed
Issue 2: Being bullied? Weasel your way out.
Issue 3: Viktor Krum Reunites with Former Girlfriend
Issue 4: Umbridge Unmasked

What questions do you have for Abby Gabby?