Monday, 8 August 2022

What is the Grand tour?

By Cassandra Samuels

With the exciting news that the next Bridgerton series (3) on Netflix will focus on Penelope and Colin I thought I would talk about The Grand Tour. In the first series, Colin goes off to do his grand tour where Pen writes to him faithfully while he is away. Although the "Tour" was not specific to the Regency period it was important to the men of the upper classes to gain maturity and experience through travel.

The Grand Tour was a time for privileged young men to travel abroad and gain an education that could not be found in books or the hallowed halls of Cambridge and Oxford.


 Emil Brack - "Planning the Grand Tour" by Marcus, GK

The tour was usually undertaken by young men and their tutor. They would travel to such places as France, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Greece and sometimes, if one was particularly keen, even as far as Africa and Egypt. Although some women were known to also travel broadly during this time they would not have had the same freedoms as men.

A young charge and his tutor
(or Bear-leader)

The whole idea of the tour was for young men to have the opportunity to travel and learn about the different cultures, languages and history of the places he visited. This would give him extra polish and a certain sophistication that was necessary to form character before taking on the daunting task of the family responsibilities - such as running an estate. It would also give them an edge over others in society who could not afford a Grand Tour.
CC - The Parthenon

This jaunt abroad could last anywhere from two to four years and cost his family a fortune. This was not generally seen so much as a burden but as the finishing touches of a young man’s necessary education.

Gentlemen would return laden down with art collected on their journeys. Often the paintings would be portraits of themselves in front of historic landmarks to record their time away. They would also send back keepsakes such as rugs, furniture and antiquities. 

William Beckford's 1780-1781 Grand Tour through Europe shown in red

Although the Grand Tour was made more difficult during the Napoleonic Wars, as soon as it was safe to travel again, young men flocked back to the continent and beyond in search of education and adventure. However, with the invention of the railway, travel became easier and more affordable for people of lesser means, and so the elite exclusivity of the Grand Tour was all but lost.

"Canaletto - View the Arch of Constantine with the Coliseum [1742-45]" by Gandalf's Gallery is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0  
This may all sound delightful but there were many dangers to be encountered when travelling abroad. A young man was likely to have his money stolen (if not his life), become infected by some kind of sexually transmitted disease, fevers and other nasty ailments and sometimes even kidnapped for ransom. However, this did not seem to stop many young men from taking the treacherous journey across the sea (which was a risk on its own) in search of enlightenment. 

Instead of taking bags of blunt with them, most would travel with letters of credit, which they would present at the major cities – a little like travellers cheques so that they only carried around the coins necessary to pay for food and lodgings. They also often carried letters of introduction as well, so that they could integrate into the local aristocracy.

Courtesy of wikimedia commons

Later in the Victorian period, travel abroad was more often taken by families and young women with an artistic bent or an adventurous spirit. They were encouraged to spend time in Italy and France admiring art and culture in all its forms. (See the movie, Room with a view for an example of this sort of travel.)

Of course, the world seems so much smaller now than it was then. With the advancements in air travel and the infinite resources of the Internet, you can travel and learn about other cultures from the comfort of your armchair, but it can never quite replace the thrill of seeing those sites in person.

If you could have done a grand tour during your early adult years where would you have gone first?

Love to Love having my daughter relocate back home with us.

Love to Laugh at the TV show HaveYou Been Paying Attention

            Love to Learn about History in all its forms - I just wished we learned from it as well.

Monday, 11 July 2022

Plotter or pantser?

Ways of writing 

By Sharon Bryant

How do you approach your writing? Are you a plotter who creates a detailed outline before you begin your novel? You may be a pantser who prefers the more organic approach of not knowing where a story is going when you begin to write it. Perhaps your approach to writing lies somewhere between these two extremes. 
Plotters often consciously utilise the structure of a romance novel when they are in the planning stage. They may make detailed notes re their characters, settings and plot lines. Some will use cards to summarise the key events in each chapter as they plot out the hills and valleys of their stories. Many story problems can be identified in the planning stage using this approach. Plotters may also know their characters well before they start to write. This can result in producing well-rounded characters who the reader can relate to. 
Pantsers may dislike detailed plotting, finding it stifles their creativity. Instead they allow their story to develop organically. If they reach a dead end, they go back, identify the problem and rewrite as needed.

Which approach is the best? 

I don't believe one approach is better than the other. Both have advantages and disadvantages. 
Plotters know their destination. This may make it more likely for beginning writers to finish a novel without getting lost on the way. If you prefer not to write your novel from start to finish, plotting may help you link different scenes together. It may also allow you to avoid extensive rewriting. 

Of course, the plotting approach has disadvantages. You need to put in a lot of work before you begin writing your novel. Plotters may spend so long in the plotting stage, that they find it difficult to begin writing. Some plotters lose confidence and leave a project without starting their actual novel.

Pantsers have the freedom to just begin writing, and take their story wherever they wish. They spend more of their valuable writing time, immersed in the writing process so it may be easier for them to develop their own voice. This immersion may aid the creation of well-developed characters. 

On the other hand, pantsers may write themselves into a corner, and become blocked, uncertain where the story should go next. Some writers find this very frustrating. They may also find it more difficult to write when inspiration doesn't strike.

 How do you approach your writing? 

There is no one correct way to go about writing your novel or short story. Your approach will be as individual as you are. How do you write? Are you a plotter, a pantser or somewhere between? 

I love to love thinking about what I may write. 
I love to laugh with my writing friends. 
I love to learn more about the process of writing.

Monday, 13 June 2022

The Protege Effect

 By Alyssa J. Montgomery

I have always found the romance writing community to be incredibly generous in terms of support and encouragement. Fellow writers have constantly been prepared to share knowledge and experiences. Although I am still honing my skills, I have always been happy to try to assist others along the road to publication when the opportunity presents and to share any knowledge I've gleaned. 

This past weekend I've just finished co-teaching a writing course. When it wrapped up, we received a lot of very positive feedback and gratitude from course participants. However, we were both left feeling we had gained as much, if not more, than we had given. 

Image from PixaBay

The term "Protege Effect" is the effect that when we teach, we explain ideas to others and this reinforces our own understanding. There have been numerous studies done which demonstrate the effect. In one I recall reading about, two groups of students were taught exactly the same material. Prior to the lesson, one group of students were told they would be tested on the material; the others were told they would need to teach the material. Although no teaching was ever required, both groups were asked to complete a test at the end of the lecture. The group who had been told they would need to teach the subject matter were found to have more correct responses and generally better recall.

The course I co-presented was one for beginner writers in the 25+ age bracket. The subjects we covered included characterisation, character development, plotting, Goal/Motivation/Conflict etc. All very basic writing topics that authors 'know' and hopefully understand and apply instinctively. However having to teach on these topics sent me back to notes and textbooks so I could make sure I imparted the subject matter concisely and accurately. Reviewing the topics reinforced and perhaps deepened my understanding. I wanted to make certain of my knowledge and to ensure I didn't have gaps in these areas.

Through teaching, I re-discovered things I already knew and solidified my  knowledge. The ensuing questions and discussion on the topics with the course participants also gave me some new insights into things which I hadn't considered.

                                                                                         Image of Seneca courtesy of Pixabay

The philosopher, Seneca, said "While we teach we learn". It's true that I've learnt again in my preparation of the course material. I've also had my mind opened to other angles on the subjects through the discussion with, and questions from, the participants.

One of the aims of the course was that the participants would go forward and form their own writing support/critique group. Part of encouraging them to gain confidence in critiquing each others work and accepting the critiques of others involved time to critique their work. Again, this was beneficial because critiquing the work of others can make us aware of flaws or weaknesses in our own writing styles. 

It felt great to be able to (hopefully) help aspiring authors along on their journey to publication. It was lovely to meet this enthusiastic and very talented group of writers and I benefited from this course by reviewing basic writing topics and principles. After a long hiatus from writing (due to the time demands from my professional speech pathology hat), I felt like a writer again and have been re-energised to write. 

                                         Image courtesy of Pixabay

In an internet article, "Small Things and the Surprising Benefits of Teaching others" (, Robb Stevens writes:

           "A candle loses none of its own light by lighting another.

            In fact, lighting another candle only adds more light."

I love candlelight. Let's not be a single flame but use the light we've been given and, whenever we can, let's keep lighting some more!

 Image courtesy of Pixabay

Would love to hear of your thoughts and experiences.

Love to love encouraging others on their journey to publication.

Love to laugh as I recount some of the mistakes I made on my journey to publication.

Love to learn through teaching others.