Category Archives: reading

Victoria Schwab Does It

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I’ve talked about tracking progress before, and today I saw Victoria Schwab’s tweet on keeping a calendar. She awards herself with stars for the number of pages she writes and the number of pages she reads, as well as the amount of exercise she gets each day. The magenta stars are for days she’s travelling or attending events.

As you probably know, I keep a calendar of my writing and submitting schedule. I set goals for the week, then record my progress as I go. But I know I’m not getting enough exercise. Victoria’s calendar has inspired me to keep track of my own physical activity. I truly believe in the importance of balance. We need to be aware of how we spend our time. So much of my life goes to household chores and tasks that have to be done every day. Having a calendar to prove that will force me to take action and reclaim some time for myself!

How do you keep track of where your time goes? How do you make time for yourself?

Note: Victoria Schwab’s “A Darker Shade of Magic” is a current goodreads Choice Awards Best Book of 2015 nominee. If you’ve read and loved it, vote for it here: https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2015.

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My Story at HOBART

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My story, “Forensics & You,” just went live at HOBART today! If you have a few minutes today, please give it a read. I hope you enjoy!

http://www.hobartpulp.com/web_features/forensics-and-you

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image: Carabella Sands

Author Appreciation Day

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Thursday was Author Appreciation Day in the Twitter-sphere. In his Writer’s Digest newsletter, editor Brian A. Klems said:

As writers, we all know how difficult this industry can be to breakthrough and find success. Some days it can be exhilarating while other days it can be so frustrating. Today’s the day we want you to show your support of other writers by finding a book you enjoyed (especially by an author trying to find success) and leave that writer a nice review on Amazon or B&N or Goodreads. When you have a book published, you’ll realize how valuable and uplifting those reviews can be (especially when you’re having a tough day).

Thursday was the perfect day for this because I had just finished reading Amy Lukavics’ Daughters Unto Devils in the wee hours of the morning. So, taking Mr. Klems’ advice, I logged on to Goodreads and left my first ever review:

daughters unto devils“Daughters Unto Devils left me breathless. I mostly binge-read it, and found myself clutching my chair at certain points along the ride. I’m also a YA writer and often deal with paranormal themes in my writing, so I know the difficulty involved in achieving this level of reader interaction/emotional response. Amy Lukavics successfully balances the paranormal elements with the human factors (i.e. characters’ relationships, desires, fears, etc.) in this book. Aside from the sheer terror I experienced numerous times, there were tender moments between Amanda and Hannah, which showed a change of heart for the protagonist–a very difficult thing to capture this well in writing. Though I understand some readers’ frustrations from the parents’ choices, even this was a realistic depiction of the stubbornness common with pioneer mentality. Overall, it read like a realized folk-ghost-tale, as the author intended. A+”

5 STARS to Amy Lukavics, with her debut YA novel, Daughters Unto Devils.

Have you written a review? If so, please leave a link below. If not, consider writing one for a book you loved, especially for a new author. Who knows–when the time comes, maybe he or she will write a review for you!

What Are You Reading?

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Though the words may differ, the advice is always the same: If you are a writer, you must also read–widely and often. Among my stacks of lit magazines, poetry collections, young adult novels, encyclopedias of paranormal/supernatural phenomenon, and geography/history resources are quite a few books on writing. I pulled these 4 to show you:

4 writing booksWriting from the Heart: Tapping the Power of Your Inner Voice by Nancy Slonim Aronie (top left)

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (top right)

Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood (bottom left)

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg (bottom right)

There are others–such as Stephen King’s On Writing and most of Janet Burroway’s guides on narrative craft–that I return to often. But these are the books I’ve heavily marked with scribbled notes in the margins and little fluorescent tabs sticking out the sides.

In Ms. Aronie’s Writing from the Heart, I like the practical exercises she prescribes.

Write about a lie you told. Do not soften the circumstances. Be tough but gentle. Be tough in writing the truth, but be gentle on yourself. You were just being human. Do you think you’re the only person who lied to get what you wanted?

Write about a lie that was told to you. (p. 72)

From Bird by Bird, Ms. Lamott tells us

One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around. (p. xii)

There is a door we all want to walk through, and writing can help you find it and open it. Writing can give you what having a baby can give you: it can get you to start paying attention, can help you soften, can wake you up. But publishing won’t do any of those things; you’ll never get in that way. (p. 13)

In Negotiating with the Dead, Ms. Atwood lets us know that “it is artists who possess the secret identities, the secret powers, and — if posterity goes their way — the last laugh… As for artists who are also writers, they are doubles twice Writing Down the Bonestimes over, for the mere act of writing splits the self into two.” (p. 32)

As you can see from the picture to the right, my copy of Writing Down the Bones is dense with tabs. I read Ms. Goldberg’s book while riding the bus to David Zimmerman’s novel writing class one summer in grad school at Iowa State University. In addition to the assigned and workshop readings, I chose to dive into this book that was recommended to me by a professor while I was still an undergrad at Simpson College. I believe it was one of those situations where it meant more when I finally got around to reading it, more than if I had read it back then. As if the right time would present itself, like a chance encounter with a person who’d been placed in your life precisely when you needed them the most. Such is a good book.

In Writing Down the Bones, Ms. Goldberg discusses the way we have to distance ourselves from the place (be it a physical or an emotional state) we need to write about. She gives the following metaphor:

Our senses by themselves are dumb. They take in experience, but they need the richness of sifting for a while through our consciousness and through our whole bodies. I call this “composting.” Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil. (p. 14)

While writing, I return to these works often, and I may mention them again here.

How about you? What are you reading? What gives you inspiration? Whose advice do you find yourself returning to, time and again?

Reaching Out

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I’ve been inspired by many wonderful contemporary poets, some only in the first stages of their careers–like me. I recently contacted many of them, along with some whose careers are established. To my surprise, everyone replied! Some were humbled by my note and all were delighted to hear I enjoyed their work. Both Eric Torgersen (author of the poem “Not Literature” in Pleiades, among many other works) and Joe Weil (whose Mar. 21 publication with Boston Review, “My Mother Reading in the Land of the Dead,” first compelled me to initiate contact with these writers) expressed relief that someone had read their poems. More partial to readings than publications, Joe said, “I like direct contact with an audience, and publication is often like putting a message in a bottle. You have no idea how the work is being received.”

I often wonder if anyone sees what I have published. I want to belong to a community of writers, but I have the problem Eric mentioned in his reply: “If you live in a somewhat out of the way place, it’s hard to sense that anybody out there is reading these things we put out.” I write for our local newspaper, and often get complimentary notes from loyal readers. With a limited readership, though, I want to reach a larger audience. I hope to impact fellow writers the way they have influenced me. In short, if you’ve read something I’ve written and either loved or hated it, please contact me. No writer wants to place their work in a bottle and sail it off to some unknown land without discovering who it actually reached. So let me know you’re out there reading away, and tell me about your journey of toil and creation.

~ Jennifer