Part autobiography and part writing manual, Francesca Lia Block’s The Thorn Necklace: Healing Through Writing and the Creative Process – aptly named after a Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait – discusses growing up in 1980s LA, where she famously sets her YA punk novels, with her artist dad and her mother, his muse. Later, she discusses how she used her lovers as muses, her zeal for clothes, her struggles with her physical appearance, and motherhood.
Each chapter tasks the reader to ask questions about their own fictional character and uses To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Play It As It Lays, Jane Eyre, and Lolita as examples. Toward the end, she includes a short story she wrote to demonstrate how all the steps work together, and there are a few exercises as a postscript. This is by no means in-depth, but enough to plant seeds.
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“For me, love and writing have always been one and the same. They both originate within. They are often birthed out of pain, or some kind of sacrifice. They have the potential to create something out of nothing, or transform something, or someone, into something, or someone, else. They don’t come easy.”
Overall, the two halves do not cohere into a solid hybrid. Attempts to bridge the personal events with the chapters’ questions feel forced and still detached. Primarily, The Thorn Necklace is a glimpse into Block’s inspirations from her personal life and will no doubt charm any fan of her YA books. The straightforward guide is best thought of as a bonus for readers who also want encouragement to write.
Sarah Hutchins is an English Instructor and freelance writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She earned a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Antioch University and a Bachelors of Arts in English from Portland State University. Her sagging bookshelves suffer from a peculiar fate: for each book read and removed, three or four magically appear in its stead. The books that find a permanent home on these same shelves are typically classics, French literature, philosophical novels and essays, and magic realism.
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