Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope all of my American readers had a day filled with turkey, family and happiness.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

Faulkner Estate Sues Sony over Quote I'm not sure what the fuss is about here. On the one hand, I understand that the film makers should have asked permission for using the quote, but on the other hand it seems that the Faulkner estate is making a mountain out of a molehill. (@ January Magazine)

Inside the Box with Chris Ware I love this idea. There are different elements to the book and many layers to the story rather than just a straight narrative compiled in one form. It's a unique idea and I'm interested to see how well it pans out. (@ Guernica)

Book publishing crisis: Capitalism kills culture This is a thoughtful reflection on what the Random House-Penguin merger will mean for the future of publishing and American culture as we know it. (@ Salon)

Truman Capote Reads from Breakfast at Tiffany's April 7, 1963 I love hearing authors read their own work. I only wish there was a video to go with the audio. (@ YouTube)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Literary Pet Names

Cat and books
Photo credit orangeaurochs via creative commons

The house I live in has two resident pets: a chinchilla named Matthias and a cat named Boo.

Both of these names came from books. Matthias comes from the Redwall Series by Brian Jacques, which by the way, you should read if you haven't. Boo, of course comes from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

The literary pet names phenomena turned out to be a happy coincidence, but we've decided to keep it going. The next cat to come in to our house will be named Scout, especially if it's a girl.

And personally, I've always thought Bartleby would be a great name for a turtle.

Do any of your pet's names come from books? Share them in the comments section.

Monday, November 12, 2012

After the Storm

Hurricane Sandy & Marblehead [Front Street 7]
photo credit: Brian Birke (creative commons)

I'm at a loss for words. Superstorm Sandy has come and gone but two weeks later we are still cleaning up after her. In my house, we went 12 days without power, which seemed like a lifetime, even though I know that we got lucky. We didn't have any flooding or other damage to our house, we have gas stoves and a gas water heater, so the only things we couldn't do were turn on the lights and surf the internet. Boohoo.

Many other people out there lost their homes, their cars, everything. The devastation from the storm is widespread and sadly many families out there are still trying to figure out what they'll do now. There are still families out there that still don't have power.

If you'd like to help the victims of the storm go to to find out what you can do.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Another Halloween Storm

Last year, around this time I wrote about the snow storm that hit New England over Halloween weekend. This year, the entire East Coast is facing a hurricane which is looking like it will be catastrophic. At this point, we're just waiting for the storm to hit, bracing for the impact. I anticipate that eventually my power will go out, but I'm hoping that things will work out for the best. I hope every one is taking the necessary precautions and preparing for the storm as best they can.

To all my East Coast readers - please stay safe in this storm. Stay inside and take care of your family.

To all my West Coast readers- Happy Halloween!

Just Do It

dmv waiting room
photo by Brian Holcomb at flickr

No, this is not a Nike commercial.

Sometimes there are things that we know we should get done, but they seem difficult or unpleasant, so we let them linger and hang over our heads until it gets to be too much. I'm here to push you over the edge today and tell you to get it done, whatever it is that you're putting off.

I'll give you an example from my life. I recently (I'm being liberal with my usage here) moved across state lines with a brand spanking new car. I waited a while to switch over my license and registration because 1) I didn't know there was a time limit on these things and 2) I didn't feel like going to the DMV.

Everybody has a bad story about going to the DMV, especially in this state that I'm now living in. So, I put it off and tried not to worry too much. Eventually I realized I had to suck it up and do it, so I journeyed to the DMV where everything was just as horribly unpleasant as I expected it to be. Fast forward a few months and I was still waiting to hear back about my registration and my plates. I was frustrated and I knew I would have to go back to the DMV.

I didn't want to go. I was expecting to have to fight with someone to get what I wanted. I was expecting to have all kinds of problems. Finally, I forced myself to get in the car and go so that the issue wouldn't linger any more and I could get on with my life.

Guess what happened?

There had been a paperwork mix up and I should have been able to get everything straightened out more than a month earlier. If I hadn't shown up, I might never have gotten my registration. Once I showed up at the DMV and explained my situation to them everything went smoothly.

Four hours later, I had new plates, an inspection sticker and a huge load off of my mind.

I felt hugely accomplished by the end of the day. Nothing would have changed if I hadn't made myself show up at the DMV and ask about my paperwork. Sometimes all it takes is a single action to get the ball rolling and from there, you might just find that the task was easier than you expected.

Is there a project weighing on your mind that you're reluctant to start? Why not just do that one thing that you've been putting off?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

Finnegans Wake: An Illustrated Panorama A simplified but entertaining illustration of an old favorite (@ The Paris Review)

My 6,128 Favorite Books An interesting take on a life spent reading books. (@ Wall Street Journal Online)

Younger Americans' Reading and Library Habits The results of a Pew Research study regarding young Americans. (@ Pew Internet Libraries)

Rumors of Random/Penguin Discussions Confirmed Big news in the publishing world. Can't wait to see how things turn out. (@ January Magazine)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Find Your Freedom

define avı - treasure hunt
photo by happy jumper on flickr

Do you mumble uncomfortably when someone asks you what you do?

Is it hard to admit to people you barely know that you like to tell stories and make things up?

I used to be like you. I used to be terrified to tell people about my writing. I worried that I would be judged, or people would think I had my head in the clouds. (To be fair, when I'm in writing mode, I often do have my head in the clouds, but that's a different story.)

Sometime between graduating from college and not being able to find a "real job" I started asking myself why I was so afraid to tell people what I wanted to do. I landed a day job and allowed myself to tell my coworkers about my writing. They didn't laugh.

Most of them are between college and where they want to be too, so funny thing is, they got it. They said okay, so you're a writer, let us read something. And suddenly I felt so free to create. I could write whatever I wanted because I was - I am - a writer.

Before, I was shy about it. Even when I went to critique groups, I'd only let others read my work after heavy revisions. I didn't want anyone to see first or even second drafts. That's (mostly) all over now.

The very act of admitting to people that I'm a writer has freed me to show my work, and to create many new and exciting things. Just because I haven't been published yet doesn't mean I have to say, "I'm going to be a writer someday." The act of writing is what makes you a writer, and being published is the icing on the cake.

Try it. Say it out loud, so someone, anyone can hear you. Say "I am a writer," then sit down and get to work. You'll be amazed at what you can produce.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quiet Down, Monkey Mind!

photo by toolstop on flickr

I know things have been quiet here lately. If you're wondering where I've been, I'll tell you the truth -- I've been having a tough time creatively.

I've written in the past about the importance of focus for writers and artists, but sometimes the ideas come so fast it's hard to keep up with them.

I know what you're thinking, "How can you complain about having too many ideas?" I'm not trying to brag or make myself sound brilliant. This is seriously a problem. I sit down to write one thing and ideas for other things keep popping into my head and if I stop to write a note to myself so I can work on the other things later, I often have trouble going back to focusing on the first thing. The only way I can think to describe what I've been dealing with is monkey mind.

At times like this, I feel like I'll never get anything accomplished because I can't sit with one project long enough to finish it. You simply can't publish unfinished work. So, here I am, sitting at my keyboard, trying desperately to calm my thoughts and focus on one thing at a time.

I hope that you, dear readers, are having more luck.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

Here is My Heart I've never read any of William Saroyan's work, but reading this article made me want to start. (@ The Millions)

28 Great Books You Can Read For Free The title of this article should end with On Kindle. It's a decent list, though a bit short. (@ The Simple Dollar)

"The Great Gatsby" Delay and Making Movies from Books It's not as easy as it sounds. (@ The New Yorker)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Food for Thought

How Your Day Job Can Help Your Writing I agree with most of the points made here, but I think the important thing to remember is the level of dedication it takes to be a successful writer while also holding down a day job. (@ Rachelle Gardner)

Got an MFA? Teach High School I see the point he's trying to make, but I'm not sure I would want to follow his advice. (@ The Millions)

bikinis meet their match This is a cute little tumblr that matches swimwear to book covers. (@ Tumblr)

Colson Whitehead's Rules for Writing If you haven't read this piece from last Sunday's book review, check it out, it's pretty good. (@ NY Times)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

MFA Superhero Typographic Classifications This is a fun little lesson on the different kinds of typefaces. (@ Behance)

7 Things I've Learned So Far By Mike Mullin Great advice, especially if you're not convinced of the importance of doing research. (@ Writer's Digest)

The 2012 Booker Longlist was announced this week. (@ The Millions)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tolstoy on Human Wisdom

"All we can know is that we know nothing. And that's the height of human wisdom."

-Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Food for Thought

Did Henry David Thoreau Invent Raisin Bread? All signs point to "no" but it's interesting that this is a rumor people actually believe. (@ Lapham's Quarterly)

Plan For American Writers Museum Revealed Take a look at the plan, it sounds like it will be great. (@ The Millions)

Who Wrote The Great New Jersey Novel? I found this article so fascinating, having just moved to NJ myself. Jernigan has made it to the top of my TBR list. (@ The Millions)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Things We Love to Do

I took this photo last summer on the coast of Maine, while waiting for a table at one of my parents' favorite restaurants.
I know I'm not the only one out there with a stressful day job, so I also know I'm not the only one who looks forward to and savors my days off. Today, because I work in retail, is one of those days and it has been wonderful.

I've spent most of the day inside because we've finally gotten some much needed rain here in New Jersey after 100 degree weather earlier this week. Luckily, I haven't needed to run any errands or go anywhere today, so I've been at home doing the things that I love to do.

I've finally had some time to sit quietly and relax without worrying about a schedule or trying to get ready for work on time. Trust me, if I had an entire week off, I would be up in Maine, where the picture above was taken, but sadly it doesn't look like I'll get there this year. Instead, I've been looking at all the pictures I took last summer, and remembering the fun that I had. It's not the same, but it's enough to inspire my current WIP and get my mind off everything else right now.

I'm spending my day looking at pictures, remembering good times, reading interesting things, drinking tea and most importantly writing a story I'm thrilled about. All in all it's a great, relaxing day.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries If you haven't seen this video series, what are you still doing reading this? Go! (@ YouTube)

Hooray, My eReader is Spying on Me Honestly, I think this is expected at this point. I'm not surprised in the least to hear about it. (@ Blurb is a Verb)

All The Badass Ninjas Hang Out at Planet Independent Bookstore This article is a bit long (for a blog post anyway) but it gets to the point. Indies are a vital part of the community and they're also one of the best resources an author has for getting her work out to the public. (@ Writer Unboxed)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday Food for Thought

How to Become an Author, in 5 Incredibly Difficult Steps A humorous twist on your typical writing advice list. (@

How to Have a Career: Advice to Young Writers This one is a little more serious, but will probably still put a smile on your face. (@ Work in Progress)

MFA Nugget: Are You Sharing an Anecdote or Writing an Artful Story? This is an important distinction. In our everyday interactions, we don't always need to acknowledge the who or the why, but in our writing, those elements make all the difference. (@ The Artist's Road)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July everyone. Enjoy the day, watch some fireworks, and be safe.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Is There Such Thing as a Story for Story's Sake?

Is there such thing as a story for story's sake?

I don't think so. 

I was at a cookout over the weekend where most of the attendees were Tolkien fans and as I'm currently reading Lord of the Rings start to finish for the first time, the conversation naturally turned in that direction.

One person argued that he has read everything there is to read about Tolkien and LOTR and that it is essentially a story for story's sake. Anyone who sees symbolism, allegory or anything else in the story, he argued, is putting those elements in.

I wholeheartedly disagree. Tolkien may have intended the story to simply be a story, but by publishing it he gave the world at large the ability to interpret it as they see fit. I'm of the belief that as authors we can have intentions in our writing, but it is up to the readers to pick up on them. 

I understand that this belief is probably unpopular among other writers because it means that our words can be "misinterpreted" and it takes authority away from the authors in some senses. 

Here's my take on it though: I'm also a reader, and the stories that stick with me are the ones that mean something to me and change the way that I think about a certain topic or issue. I don't like to waste my time with stories "for story's sake." The stories that I write are for readers like me -- people that want to think deeply and be affected even in some small way by the story they're reading.

Tolkien may very well have wanted to write a story without allegory or symbolism in it, but if that was his intention I don't think he succeeded. If LOTR really is a story for story's sake, why is it still so popular? 

At the very base level, isn't it about good versus evil? Isn't it up to the reader to decide what they learn from it? What are your thoughts? Let's talk about it in the comments.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Food for Thought

Dear Sugar: On Tiny Beautiful Things A thoughtful analysis of Cheryl Strayed's advice column Dear Sugar and the new book that collects all of her advice into one place. (@ The Millions)

Curate Your Summer Reading I haven't used any of these apps, but I can see how they would come in useful for someone doing a lot of traveling this summer. (@ Unclutterer)

A Tale of Two Readers As a writer you can't please every reader, but this is a good piece about how to make the most of feedback. (@ Writer Unboxed)

Confessions of a Strategic Writer Here's some good advice to advance your writing career and get out of the starving artist mindset. (@ Pen & Pro$per)

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Answer to Almost Every Problem

(Photo Credit: Mayan Brenn on Creative Commons)

What do you usually do when you're faced with a task that you don't now how to complete?

I've found that I can figure out how to do just about anything that needs to be done by using one simple skill: reading.

I read directions for electronic devices that I'm not familiar with. I read books about topics that I need to understand. I read warning labels, street signs, websites and anything else that can tell me what I need to know.

Just this week, a friend of mine approached me about helping her design a website for her small business. I've done a bit of web design in the past, but I worried I was a bit rusty. After talking with her about what she needed, I began to read everything I could about HTML and web design. Now, in a short amount of time, I've been able to create a simple webpage with relatively little difficulty. It's no where near finished, but it's a solid foundation. 

This is pretty much what I do whenever I have a task or problem that I can't immediately solve on my own. Most of the time I'm able to find the information that I need quickly enough and it also gives me a sense of accomplishment once I've figured out a solution. 

Next time you're faced with a problem, try doing some basic reading on the topic at hand and see if you can't solve it yourself.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

Outside the Box: From Teaching to Tea Parties I love this idea. Yes, some writers are teachers, but that doesn't mean we all have to do it. (@ The Millions)

The American Novel Since 1945 with Amy Hungerford I had the pleasure of discovering this Yale Open Course online this week and am now steadily making my way through it. (@ Youtube)

How Rejection Can Lead to Hope Just because you get rejected once doesn't mean you need to give up on your work. (@ Writer's Digest)

Monday, June 18, 2012

What I'm Reading Now

At the moment, I'm reading a lovely memoir called The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn. It's about the year she spent studying French cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. 

I adore this book.

I think the main reason is because I've been obsessed with France for a long time. I spent most of my teen years dreaming of the day when I'd finally get to visit the Eiffel Tower and tour the Palace of Versailles. I eventually did get to go, but as an seventeen year-old on a school trip there's only so much exploring you can do. I got to see the sites, but I know there are a lot of things I missed. Basically, I've wanted to go back ever since I came home.

(This is one of my favorite photos from the trip.)

So, reading this book, I can't help but start dreaming again. The story is well told and the places are familiar - some I've been to and some I've been reading about my entire life. As I'm reading I can't help but be bitten by the travel bug. I'm dying to go back to Paris. 

You might be thinking, "okay, but this book isn't really about traveling." No, it's about cooking, you're right. Personally, I'm not a very talented chef. I can make appetizing meals, and I have a few things I specialize in, but cooking was never a passion of mine. It's not something I like to spend a lot of time getting good at. So the recipes printed in this book and the stories from her actual cooking classes? They're not what's getting me to turn the pages. That's not to say they're not interesting. Some one who actively wants to learn about cooking would probably be fascinated by the demonstrations and the recipes.

The memoir is a nice balance between cookbook/tales from the kitchen and a travelogue. It's smart, captivating and fun.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

How to Write a Great Thriller: 6 Pieces of Advice Personally, I think this post should be called How to Write a Great Novel. Some of the advice is genre specific, but most of it is transferable to any type of fiction. (@ Guide to Literary Agents)

 Do It Like You're Dating A Sexy Beast This is a very funny post with great advice at the heart of it. It's easy to forget that set-up for your story should be subtle. Lace the details in rather than dumping a huge amount of backstory onto the first page. (@ Musings From the Slush Pile)

More Soon: A Sampling of Electronic Correspondence with Magazine Editors Another post to get you laughing this afternoon. (@ The Millions)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Re-Reading a Favorite Book

Over the weekend, I started re-reading a favorite book of mine, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I'm taking my time with the novel this time around. I want to be able to enjoy the story, but to also learn from the techniques Marquez uses so that I can become a better storyteller.

There's one line that struck me as I began to read (lesson one: engage your readers by putting compelling ideas on the first page). The line is: "'Things have a life of their own,' the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent. 'It's simply a matter of waking up their souls.'" This is in reference to the magnets that he is trying to sell to our MC. 

I just find that line so tellingly beautiful. It can be taken anyway you please, but think for a second in terms of storytelling. Things, (read characters) have a life of their own. We as writers can be responsible for waking up their souls (read telling their stories). 

Next time you find yourself stuck in your writing, try to think of yourself as someone who wakes up souls instead of someone who is struggling to tell a story. Allow yourself to use mental magnets to draw these characters from their hiding places and onto the page where they belong.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

Ray Bradbury Dead at 91 I was so sad to hear this news. I remember reading The Martian Chronicles when I was young and finally understanding the draw of science fiction. (@ January Magazine)

Flip the Script: Write Some Days I like the idea of writing everyday, but as we all know, sometimes it doesn't happen. As long as we don't let too many days slip by, I think it's okay to be forgiving. (@ Writer Unboxed)

Taking the Mystery Out of Query Letters This is reasonable, straight-forward advice to keep in mind. (@ Rachelle Gardner)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How Long Does It Take You to Read a Novel?

Today I finished reading Louise Erdrich's excellent novel Love Medicine. I'm ashamed to admit that I started reading it more than a month ago.

Let me be clear, I didn't read it slowly because I wasn't enjoying it. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Every time I picked the book up I would spend an hour or so reading and sometimes even re-reading the passages. It was a book that I knew I could learn from - Erdrich is a master storyteller (as cliche as it sounds to say that, it's true) and I often find myself trying to analyze what she does in her stories that make them so memorable to me.

Here's the problem though: some days I don't have an hour. Last month got crazy and there were two weeks were I literally felt like I lived at my day job. I didn't have a lot of time to relax with a book.

I keep a list of all the books that I read and try to make note of how long each book takes me to get through and how much I enjoyed it. Looking over the list that I've been keeping since 2005, I'm really not convinced that there's any correlation.

Supposedly if you enjoy a book it should be quicker to read than if you're not enjoying it. I don't really think that's the case, at least not for me. Why? Because life is always going on around you.

As much as I love reading and writing, none of us can live life with our nose stuck in a book. In 2005 it took me any where from 4 hours to 3 months to finish reading a book. I was in high school, but I still managed to read for fun. In 2010 I didn't finish anything in less than a week, but I was also in my last year of college. In 2011, by contrast, I finished most of the books that I read in a handful of days, as I didn't have a whole lot else to do. This year, it's been a mixed bag. Some books only took a few days to read, some took more than a month.

Maybe I'm the only one who pays this close attention to these things, but maybe I'm not. Tell me about your experience? How long does it take you to read a book? Do novels take more or less time than non-fiction books? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Try Something New

Leap of Faith
(Photo Credit: ClickFlashPhotos via Creative Commons)
It's easy to fall into routines. 

You do something the same way often enough and suddenly that feels like the most natural way to do it. The thought of changing the routine or trying a new method seems crazy. 

Why change things up when the current routine is working?

Well, if it's working, you probably don't need to change anything. However, if you feel bored or frustrated with your routine, then it's a good time to switch things up.

For example, nearly everyday I eat dinner, do the dishes, tool around on the internet or some other mindless activity for a few hours, and then watch a half hour to an hour of tv before bed. But I've started to be bored with this routine. I've started to feel tired when I shouldn't and generally sluggish. 

The solution I've come up with is to go for a walk around my neighborhood either before or after dinner. The exercise and fresh air have made me feel more energized and getting out of the apartment for a bit each day adds some interest to my evenings. It's not a huge change, but it's enough.

Having a daily routine can be great, but sometimes it's worth breaking things up and changing it a bit. I started small by adding a walk into my routine. I've also made a list of new things I'd like to do this summer. These are things I wouldn't normally do in my everyday life but have always been of interest to me. 

Trying new things can give us a sense of accomplishment because even if we turn out to not like the activity or food or whatever it is, we'll still have overcome that bit of resistance that is newness.

If you feel stuck in your routine then I invite you to try something new with me. Big or small. It could be as simple as finally eating kale or as difficult as getting a pilot's license. 

Whatever you have on your list, share it with us in the comments below.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

The Not-So-Starving Artist This is a thoughtful piece about how writers can fund their projects, even when they're just starting out. (@ Writer Unboxed)

A Note on the Paper: An Encomium to Larry Please think before you print this page. (@ The Millions)

Amazing Advice for Aspiring Writers by Neil Gaiman Watch Gaiman's commencement speech and learn. (@ Write to Done)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I'm Back!

I know, it's been forever since I've posted anything good on here. I'm sorry.

My day job has been taking over my life and I've had very little time to do much of anything outside of it. Of course, that doesn't mean that my real life stopped happening, so my blog was what got pushed off to the side while I tried to keep up. 

So what have I been up to you ask? Well aside from working like a dog as mentioned above, I went to a wedding, entertained relatives from out of town, spent time with friends and loved ones, read a few books, interviewed for a second job, oh yeah and did I mention how much I've been working?

As you can see I've had very little time to write at all the past few weeks. I hate that, but it's the reality of being a writer with a day job. Anyway, things have calmed down a bit now (I have 2 days off this week!) and I'm getting back into that groove of writing everyday and blogging a few times a week. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Food for Thought

Sorry Everyone My Website is Now Behind a Paywall Caution. This article may make you laugh. (@ McSweeny's)

10,000 Hours "It takes a long time for most of us mortals to get good at writing." (@Writer Unboxed)

Designing Books is No Laughing Matter. Ok It Is. This guy is so funny. He has some really interesting points about book cover designs as well. (@

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

Writing as a Reality TV Show This is a hilarious idea. I'm not sure it would work on TV but it's a great article. (@

14 Literary Settings Inspired by Real Places How many of these places have you been to? (@ Mental Floss)

Maurice Sendak, Children's Author, Dies at 83 Sad news this week. (@ New York Times)

Watch: Maurice Sendak's Last Interview with Stephen Colbert Funny interview with Sendak only a few months ago. (@ Time Magazine)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Keep Moving Forward

Sometimes we have bad days.

For example, I'm not in love with my day job. To put it simply, some days are better than others. Most days the job is 'good enough.' I can work part-time and come home and do what I love: write fiction, blog, etc. But on days when work is particularly bad I have a hard time concentrating on writing. On those days I feel like I'm faced with two options: 

1. I can stew over my horrible day, and generally be angry at everything for the rest of the night.

2. I can take some time to be annoyed and then get on with my life. This job was never one I planned on being in forever, so why let it get to me? Why not take this as a sign that it's time to take the next steps forward, and make an effort to improve my situation?

Think about it in terms of getting published: If you get pissed off about every rejection letter, you're not going to get very far in your writing career. On the other hand, if you give yourself an hour or two to be upset and then go back to work, you're going to be a lot more successful that way. 

We have to keep moving forward. Even on our bad days. That's the only way we're going to get anywhere.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Stop Trying to Be Perfect!

imperfect, complex
Photo credit: Nosha on Flickr

I know I'm not alone in this: I spend a lot of time thinking about how I want a project to turn out, so much so that I often end up procrastinating starting the project for fear of it not living up to my expectations. That's right. Sometimes I put off starting a project because I don't think that it will be perfect when I'm done.

Do you see the problem with that?

We cannot do this to ourselves anymore. How many people out there have let perfectionism stand in the way of completion? Wouldn't you rather have a complete, physical manuscript with a few mistakes that you can hold in your hands than a completely perfect manuscript that exists only inside your head? Your work doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be done. 

You have to take a few steps forward every now and again otherwise you'll never get to your goal. Think about it. The more you practice writing (or anything) the better you get at it. The better you get, the closer you can come to that perfect manuscript or short story or poem or whatever. 

If you're like me, there will always be things you wish you could fix or improve, but working on these things is the only way to get better. Don't let 'perfect' get in the way of 'good enough.'

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

Time Out What do you read when you're not writing? (@ Writer Unboxed)

How to Find Your Daily Writing Motivation We all know we should be writing every day, but some days it's easier than others. (@ Write to Done)

I'm On a Writing Break i.e. Going Crazy-Pants I think we all have those moments between WIP when we feel like this. We probably don't all spend it cleaning, but there is something about being in the middle of a project that keeps us writers sane and happy. (@ Musings From the Slush Pile)

Write to Express, Not to Impress This is crucial to writing well. (@ Guide to Literary Agents)

Monday, April 30, 2012

What Brings You Joy

Yesterday, the store I work at hosted an end-of-quarter meeting to discuss our brand and our priorities for the rest of the year. One thing that we talked a lot about is joy. How can we find joy in what we do and pass that along to our customers.

The more I thought about it, the more important that seemed.

No one likes to go into a store or restaurant (or really anywhere) when the people working there are clearly miserable. Moods are incredibly contagious. When you're feeling bad, it shows, and it affects other people. The same goes for when you're feeling good. 

I think this translates to your writing too. If you're writing a piece because you're passionate about the message you're sending, it will show. Your reader will be able to see that the writing brings you joy and it will make them want to read more. It will make them feel good to read your work.

However, if you're only writing to make money or fulfill some other need and there is no joy in your writing, your reader will not want to keep reading. They will see that your writing is forced or not genuine and they will turn away from it. 

If you want readers to keep reading and coming back to your work, you need to find what brings you joy in your work. Remind yourself of why you started doing this in the first place and come back to that on your bad days. Remember that feeling of joy and try to bring it into everything you do.

It's easy to get discouraged in this business, but by remembering the joyful moments, you can keep your spirits up and keep moving forward. That's the only way to succeed.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

Oprah Shares Letter to Younger Self I love to hear the stories of how successful people started their careers. (@ Huffington Post, CBS News)

Slow Jam the News President Obama was a guest on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon this week. If you didn't see it (and even if you did) check out this video. (@ Late Night's Youtube page)

Keep Moving Forward This is a great post on the importance of perseverance. You personally have to keep moving forward if you want your writing career to go anywhere. (@Writer Unboxed)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sick day

I've been dealing with a nasty cold for almost a week now. Yesterday when I woke up, I could barely stand. So, I called work & let them know I wouldn't be coming in.

I spent most of the day reading and sleeping. Today I'm still a bit sick, but I'll be able to go to work. Taking the day off gave me a chance to relax & heal, so I'll be over this cold much sooner than if I had tried to push myself to go to work.

Sometimes staying at home with a good book really is the best medicine.

What do you like to read when you're sick? Tell us in the comments below!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

Toni Morrison This is a fascinating interview with the author about her new book and her life. (@ The Guardian)

Knock Off Books Fooling Consumers This is my main concern with self-publishing: there are very little barriers on that road so it's incredibly easy for someone to pull off something like this. (@ January Magazine)

By now I'm sure you've heard that there will be no Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year, but in case you haven't here are some of the more interesting articles about the non-award.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The 18th of April

In my family, we have a tradition of reading Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "The Landlord's Tale; Paul Revere's Ride" every year on the 18th of April. 

It's sort of a game (especially between my father and his brother) to see who can recite the most lines from memory. Usually everyone sort of trails off after the first two stanzas and then we have to consult the actual poem.

Anyone else's family do this? Or does your family have some other bizarre literary tradition of it's own? Share it in the comments.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

Computers Are Replacing Journalists  A fresh perspective on the issue. It's certainly not the end of journalism, just journalism as we know it. (@ The Starved Writer)

The Books We Come Back To There are a lot of books that I like to reread, but none on any kind of schedule. It fascinates me to read about authors making a point of reading their favorite books once a year. (@The Millions)

 The Story of Keep Calm and Carry On You never know what you'll find in secondhand book shops. (@ BarterBooksLtd Youtube page)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Write Your Way to Happiness

For the last few weeks, Friday has been my only day off from my day job. For several weeks in a row now, I've had to schedule meetings and run errands on those days, meaning that my days off were just as (if not more so) stressful as the days when I had to go to work.

Last week, I was able to get my errands out of the way earlier in the week, and only had one quick meeting in the morning on Friday. This left me with an entire day to myself; a day to do whatever I wanted on my own schedule. I took out a notebook and got to work.

Before I knew it, I was digging through my books and re-reading old journals trying to find that one note I'd written myself three years ago. It seems only fitting that my new Kindle arrived in the middle of the day on Friday as well.

You might be wondering how much writing I got done. In terms of actual sentences and paragraphs, not a whole lot. What I did instead was create a timeline for my WIP. It takes place over nearly 100 years, so I had to get my years straight. I spent almost two hours working on this timeline, and another hour or so gathering all of the notes I had written about this piece.

It was an incredibly productive day overall, even if from the outside it might not appear that way. The fact is, focusing so closely on my writing made the day fly by. I barely noticed the time passing, and I felt relaxed and happy at the end of the day. It wasn't like all of my other 'days off' where I was rushing around town trying to get things done, and stressing out about not having enough time. I was able to sit and work at my own pace and accomplish only the things that I wanted to accomplish while not worrying about anything else.

This is why I do this. It's what I love. No, not everyday is going to be easy and full of sunshine and roses, but even on my least productive days, I'm still more likely to feel good if I've written even one word. It's the days when I haven't touched my WIP that make me feel horrible.

Go ahead. Get started. Write down two sentences. It doesn't matter if they're good or bad, just get them out of your head and onto the screen (paper, whatever). Just write a few sentences a day and see how much better you feel each time. Soon you'll have a whole page. Then a chapter. And so on.

You'll be amazed at how much happier you feel with each word.

Kindle, Wi-Fi, 6" E Ink Display - includes Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

The Old Man and the Sea A beautiful stop motion video summarizing the whole book. (@ Vimeo)

How to Write the Great American Novel I laughed out loud several times while reading this. It's a great way to start the weekend if you're looking for a bit of humor. (@ The Awl)

The Berenstain Bears and the Tyranny of Timeliness Goodman makes an interesting point here, writers in the past have been able to write for the sake of writing and expressing thoughts, whereas the internet has made timeliness a necessity. Readers want to know, as Goodman puts it, "not 'why this?' but 'why this, now?'" (@ The Millions)

The Role(s) of Reversal in Fiction  I love the idea of using reversal to add humor and/or tension to a scene, as in the Pride and Prejudice example. Reversal can add another layer to an otherwise simple story or scene. (@ Beyond the Margins)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Benjamin Franklin on Failure

"Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out."

-Benjamin Franklin

Monday, April 2, 2012

Finally Jumping On The Bandwagon

Today, I ordered a Kindle from Amazon. I decided to go with the most basic design for a few reasons.

1. I already own a laptop that is light and very portable, so a Kindle Fire would have been superfluous. There's nothing that I would want to do on the Kindle Fire that my laptop doesn't already do.

 2. I didn't want the Kindle Touch because even though it holds more books and looks a little cooler, it's not all that different from the basic Kindle. I didn't want to pay extra for a touch screen (my phone has one of those and to be honest, I can't stand it.)

3. Why go with Kindle over Nook or any of the other options? E-Ink. I use the Kindle app on my phone and laptop all the time, but my eyes get tired pretty quickly that way. When I read on paper, I don't have that problem and the few times I've played around with other people's Kindles, I've been amazed at how closely it resembles a regular book.

I'm truly excited to try it out. I'll give you a report in a few weeks of what I think. In the meantime, do you have a Kindle? What do you like or dislike about it? Let us know in the comments!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

Why Literary Fiction Isn't Boring I found this interesting partly because this is the genre I've always been most interested in. I know that some people find it boring, but I think those people should give it another shot. (@ Guide to Literary Agents)

Literary Style: 15 Writers' Bedrooms Take a look at how the greats have lived. Some of these are reproductions or guesses but for the most part they seem pretty true to character. (@ Apartment Therapy)

You Must Engage Your Creative Side Trying new creative endeavors, even if they don't turn out well, will usually help to refresh your writing. (@ Jeff Goins, Writer)

Update: David Foster Wallace The Pale King Paperback Truth be told, I didn't buy the hardcover, but I'm still annoyed by this news. It's a new trend in publishing to add things to a book when it comes out in paperback so those who bought the hardcover feel cheated or coerced into buying a second copy. Of course the publishers have to make money, but this isn't the way to do it. If anything it's going to encourage people to buy fewer books. (@ Melville House)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

W.B. Yeats on Happiness

"Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing."

- William Butler Yeats

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games

If you haven't read the book by now, what are you waiting for??

The movie adaptation opened in theaters on Friday and to put it simply, it was excellent. The adaptation was incredibly well done, probably because Suzanne Collins, the author of the novel, helped write the screen play and worked as an Executive Producer on the film.

The thing I love about the story is the emotional conflict Katniss has - she obviously wants to win but there's a price to pay for that victory. The book and the movie both make the audience think about that conflict so that it's not just a story about death. 

Have you seen the movie yet? What did you think?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

B*tches In Bookshops   Based on the Jay-Z and Kanye West song. Even if you don't like the original, this video is worth watching. It's funny, smart and pretty well made. 

The Real World and the YA Novel First of all, the book trailer for this book is incredibly well made. Second of all, I love the reasoning she has behind placing her novel in the real world rather than a fantasy world. (@ Writer Unboxed)

I Am Not A Character: On Thomas Mallon's Watergate A review of the new novel about an old scandal. (@ The Millions)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On To the Next

Keat takes notes

Photo courtesy of GeekCalendar (Creative Commons)

Last week, I finished writing the most recent draft of the novel I've been playing around with for three years now. I know I'll need to hire a copy editor to work out the finer points of grammar and punctuation, but in terms of story and characters, I really feel like this is the draft. I'm ready to start sending this thing out into the world. Even if it comes back to me with 100 rejection letters, that's okay. Why? Because I'm already working on my next project.

One piece of advice that gets repeated again and again is to keep working and writing while you wait to hear back about pieces you submit. I've never heard anyone say that you ought to wait to start work on your second manuscript until the first one has a publisher. 

It's good advice, too. It takes the worry out of the wait (at least some of it!). If you are already working on the new book and falling in love with your new characters, you don't have time to sit and agonize over what's happening with the last ones. 

So yes, I'm in the market for a good copy editor and I'm preparing myself to start writing query letters, but I'm also planning and outlining my next novel. When I'm ready to hit send on the queries, I won't have much time to agonize because my new characters will be calling to me.

How much time do you need between projects? Do you jump right in to the next one or do you take a break for a while? Tell us in the comment section below!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Food for Thought

Make Your MC a Mixtape This is a great way to get to know your characters. Whenever I begin a new long-term project, I make a playlist to help me focus while I write. (@ Musings From the Slush Pile)

Stuck in a Creative Funk? Try These 12 Tips Everybody hits a block at some point or another. Any of these tips will help you get past it. (@ Jeff Goins, Writer)

A Magician of Time I think anyone who writes full time, whether you're a blogger, novelist or journalist can make use of some of these pointers. (@ Get Rich Slowly)

Why the DOJ's Potential Lawsuit Over the Agency Model is A Really Big Deal If you're curious about this case, this is a pretty smart article outlining the history behind it and what it will mean. (@ Nathan Bransford, Author)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

When to Cut Characters

A while back, I took a writing class where the instructor was always telling us to get rid of extra characters in our stories. 

If you wrote a scene where a man was out to dinner with his girlfriend and two nieces, he'd tell you that there only needed to be one niece.

If you wrote a scene where a child was being bullied on a school bus, he'd tell you to change the bus to a locker room and get rid of everyone but the child and the bully.

If you wrote a scene that took place in Times Square on New Years Eve, he'd tell you to change the scene to a home in the Midwest where the characters were watching the ball drop on TV.

Do you see the problem here? 

Yes, there are people who stay home and watch the ball drop, but those are completely different people than the ones who go to Times Square on New Years Eve. If you change the scene that much, not only do you cut out a few extra people from the background, but you also have to completely rethink your main characters.

Obviously if the scene takes place in the middle of Times Square, not every person in that scene is going to have a speaking part, or get an in depth description in the narrative. But, they have a place in the narrative. If your main character wants to propose to his girlfriend in front of thousands of strangers, that's one of the best places to set your story. You're not going to be able to describe every person's reaction, but you can't pretend that they aren't there.

If you take the bully off the school bus and into the locker room you lose the embarrassment factor. Of course the child being bullied is still going to feel awful, and be embarrassed, but if the bullying isn't happening in public, it's a much different scene. On the school bus, there's opportunity for other kids to stand up for him, or join the bully. In the locker room, the victim is entirely alone, unless you force another character to walk through the door.

So how do you know when you need to cut a character? 

Think about how much the scene would change if there were fewer characters in it. Think about how your characters would act with less people around. If the scene would still work, if your characters would act the same way no matter who was around, then sure, get rid of the second niece, take the bully off the school bus. 

Only cut characters from your narrative when you're positive they're superfluous and the scene will work better because of it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Do You Use Your Local Library?

Do you use your local library?

One of the first things I did after I moved back in January was go down to the library and get a card so that I could check out books whenever I wanted. It was (to me) a crucial step toward becoming established in my new town. 

I've always loved going to the library because they had all the books that I could possibly want -- for free! I know, as an aspiring author shouldn't I be encouraging readers to buy buy buy? Not always. Of course you should buy your favorite books, but you have to use the libraries too.

I know someone who says she doesn't use the library because  she reads too slowly and never finishes the book before it's due. That's crazy though, because there are so many other things to do at the library. Checking out books is only the tip of the iceberg.

  • If you can't afford internet access to your home, you can go to the library (with a free card) and check your email. 
  • If you want to visit your local museum, but can't afford the cost of admission, you can get a museum pass from most libraries. 
  • The library in my hometown recently started offering free audiobook & music downloads as well as online language courses. 
  • Many libraries are now also offering ebook lending on Kindle and Nook. 

Not to mention author visits, book clubs, community gathering spaces, movie screenings...The list of benefits go on and on. 

So tell me: If you don't use your library, what are waiting for?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Food For Thought

Uncovering Hidden Treasures: Where to Find Ideas For Your Writing Here are some great ideas for those of you looking to avoid writer's block. (@ Pen & Pro$per)

Do We Still Need Publishers? A look at the changing relationship between writers and publishers. (@ The Guardian)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Inspiration Is Everywhere

Yesterday after work, I sat down to read a bit of the non-fiction book I'd checked out from the library and subsequently ignored in favor of the Stephen King novel a friend had lent me at the same time. The book, (Permission Marketing by Seth Godin, if you're curious) is coming up on it's due date, and I wanted to say I had at least tried to read some of it before I had to renew or return.

It's a fairly interesting book, but being more than 10 years old now, it's slightly outdated. As I read, I often found my attention wandering because of this. Most of the time it was thoughts like: "AltaVista is no longer one of the most visited search engines on the Internet...I don't think. I don't know what happened to AltaVista. Maybe I should Google it..."

Sometimes though, these tangents turned into semi-productive brainstorming sessions. I love to play the "what would happen if...?" game. I think about the way that things are and imagine what would happen if one thing were different. Sometimes this results in ideas that are interesting in the moment but ultimately fade out. Other times, these ideas turn into projects. Short stories, novels, or even craft projects.

The idea I got yesterday has the potential to become a novel project, but it's too early so far to tell. I've written it down and only time will tell if it's worth following through with.

The point is that inspiration is everywhere. You just need to be reading to respond when it hits you.