Writing Coach Interview: Lora Fanning

Brave Writer writing coach Lora Fanning

Continuing our series of interviews with our fabulous writing instructors, here’s the latest installment: an interview with the wonderful Lora Fanning

Lora has a history degree from Mary Washington University and an unfortunate familiarity with chemises due to long days in costume as a docent at living history museums. She nurtures the next generation of wordsmiths around the world as a writing instructor for Brave Writer and as a teacher for local middle and high school co-ops. She practiced her storytelling for 11 years on her blog where she wrote about her full-time gig as a wife to her Superman and mother to seven kids.

What kind of a writer were you in high school?
I was usually the English teacher’s pet. It was instinctive for me, and both my parents are wordsmiths, so I didn’t think it was a big deal. But I definitely relied on my professor mom to help me edit, so that probably improved my grades a bit.

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?
The shade of blue grey where the sky meets the ocean. The ocean is my happy place. It makes me feel so small, yet is so grounding. It makes me fling my arms wide in worship.

What is one of your favorite classroom moments?
Online: It’s when the parent of that one kid, the one who has struggled from day one, sends you the update that there was a light bulb moment – they grabbed the pencil and dove in. I usually do a lot of fist pumping and air-fives while sitting at my desk.

In-Person: I love doing the Mixed Media Journaling (from Journaling Jumpstart) in my co-op classes. I play music and the kids get lost in words and creativity and the room fairly buzzes with peaceful energy. It’s a joyful mess.

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Friday Freewrite: Candles

Friday Freewrite Candles

Imagine that your family members are scented candles. What scent would each person be and why?

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.


Movie Wednesday: Beauty and the Beast

Movie Wednesday Beauty and the Beast

Belle is the daughter of an inventor in a small town where she sticks out for her voracious reading. Tired of being socially ostracized and of dealing with the unwanted advances of the brutish Gaston, Belle longs for a life filled with rich experiences and adventure. But one day her father does not return from a journey, and Belle must set out to find him. She discovers that her father is being held captive in an enchanted castle by a monstrous Beast. To set her father free, Belle takes his place within the Beast’s castle. Belle soon realizes that all is not as it seems inside the castle, where candelabras and clocks can talk, but can she learn to see past surface appearances to the truth underneath?


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The live action adaptation of Walt Disney Picture’s classic animated film of Beauty and the Beast was released in 2017, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens as the titular characters. Loosely based on the 1740 fairy tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (although one of the most widely available and widely referenced versions in English was abridged and rewritten by Andrew Lang for his Blue Fairy Book anthology), the animated film is considered a classic. The live action retelling expands on the original, adding new songs and plot developments, amidst lavish sets and costumes.

Beauty and the Beast has been adapted to film, television, and stage numerous times and remains a pop cultural touchstone due to its themes of seeing beyond the surface and the redemptive power of love. The original tale, however, was meant to help girls prepare themselves for arranged marriages and Disney’s incarnations have drawn criticism for the power imbalance in the relationship between Belle and the Beast and its implications. The 2017 film makes a noticeable effort to center Belle more as the protagonist and works in several new moments of the character being more proactive, though some felt it still was not enough.

The Beast in the film was created through a combination of motion capture puppeteering on stilts (which is a process of recording the motions of a performer using markers that are tracked so that later an image can be created over them digitally) for the physical performance and a facial capture done later to record Stevens’ acting performance.

Discussion Questions

  • If you have seen both the animated and live action films, which do you prefer and why?
  • Do you think the romance between the Beast and Belle is genuine given that Belle is technically the Beast’s prisoner for much of the film? Explain your answer.
  • The story encourages the audience “not to judge by appearances.” Have you ever felt unfairly judged by your appearance in real life? What did that feel like?
  • In the Disney version, Belle’s father is an inventor and Belle is an only child, but in the original fairy tale the father is a merchant and Belle is one of 12 children. How do you think these changes alter the story?
  • In the Beast’s castle, his servants have been magically transformed into household objects. If you were turned into an object, what would you be and why?

Additional Resources

DIY Enchanted Rose

DIY ‘Chip’ Tea Cup

Interview with Dan Stevens about how they created the Beast


Sign up for our Spinning a Folktale and Story Switcheroo classes!


Willing Participants

Willing Participants

by Brave Writer mom, Karen

Hi, Brave Writer community. To encourage you all, here’s a sweaty picture of me (above) being “enough” playing with my son on the squash courts at our local YMCA. Please allow me to explain why I would think to share it here.

I was the girl in high school who was picked second to last for high school games in P.E. every week, for four years. Four long, humiliating, years. It fed right into my insecurities about my body and athleticism. These past few months my son’s enthusiasm for sports has grown insatiable and I have been forced to reckon with my old high school self; apologetically practicing warm ups, basketball shoots & tricks, attending practice and games—taking him to the squash courts whenever our schedule permits, practicing pickle ball with the “silver sneaker” crowd, and taking him to Zumba classes.

Julie’s [broadcast] today echoed in my heart as my son & I hit the racquetball courts this morning—a follow through on yesterday’s promise. I missed the ball dozens of times and hit it in directions I never aimed for. Honestly, I must have been comical to watch. The ball would bounce between my legs, under my arms and fly across the tip of my racket with almost every lunge and swift swing I made. While we were having fun early on, I sensed frustration and feelings of incompetency building inside of me, threatening to end the fun we were having.

At one point I began to seriously doubt my competency in supporting my son’s interests. What stopped me was Julie’s words of not waiting for or wanting a future better self but loving the best version of ourselves today—a message echoed in readings I happen to have been doing this past year, too. It was at this point I remembered my son and I were free to practice according to our own rules. It didn’t matter if I was using the court correctly or not, or if the ball bounced more than once before it was returned. It didn’t matter if the ball ricocheted from floor to wall, wall to ceiling.

It didn’t matter how we played.
It just mattered that we were playing.

Our strategy became, “Don’t let the ball roll—keep it moving, keep it bouncing. Keep it moving.” And with new rules in place, fear yielded to fun and more learning took place. I could tell that with each “error” we were making we were learning how to adjust our aim and our step. And then I began to see learning that reached beyond any attempt of actually playing a game too—I was betting that we were both also learning about the principles of physics and geometry too. What mattered was not how good I was at sports, or how fast the gains my son was making, but that we were willing participants.

With this tenet in mind, it became clear that my son would progress at his own rate regardless of my skill; not slower because of me. And that idea is very freeing for me. It’s easy to view our feelings of incompetency as barriers to learning and teaching, but if we can find a way of viewing things from the act of participating rather than abstaining, I think it helps us give way to discomfort and allows for learning to take hold.

The Brave Writer Philosophy


Friday Freewrite: Rewrite

Friday Freewrite Rewrite

If you could rewrite the ending of a movie, which film would you pick and how would you change it?

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.