Ten Books (Or Series) That Have Stuck With Me

Hello, hello!  I haven’t been feeling 100% the last couple of days, so I thought I would make today’s post short and simple.  We all have books or movies or songs or works of art or whatever that stick with us.  You know the ones.  Those things that we randomly think of even though we haven’t seen or thought of them in years.  The things that pop up in our lives at the most unexpected of moments.  They helped shape who we are today, for better or worse.  That’s what I’m going to talk about today.  Namely, the books or series that have stuck with me.

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It’s kind of like that.

1. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King.  It was the first book I remember reading that I didn’t actually have to read.  Pretty much everything by King sticks with me, though.

2. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.  I don’t think there’s anyone around my age who wasn’t at least exposed to Harry Potter.  It’s one of those series that keeps surprising you, even after you’ve read it for the third time.

3. Angel Sanctuary by Kaori Yuki.  I know it’s a manga (Japanese graphic novel) series, but it taught me so much growing up.  I learned that, sometimes, the cruelest of demons comes packaged as an angel, and vice versa.

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From Angel Sanctuary.

 4. A Separate Peace by John Knowles.  I honestly don’t even remember liking this book, but I find myself thinking about it quite often.  It’s one of those books that I’m afraid to read again, in case it ruins the nostalgia.

5. The Seance by Joan Lowery Nixon.  This is another of those books that I haven’t read since I was small (it was my first “pick your own book” book report in elementary school).  It was my first foray into the whole spooky mystery thing.

6. Ransom by Lois Duncan.  Again, this was something I read in elementary school.  It was the first book I remember reading that had a disabled kid.  He wasn’t in a wheelchair or anything, but he was different from everyone else and it was strange to see someone else deal with that kind of stuff.

7. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.  I fell in love with Gaiman’s writing because of this book.  It will always hold a special place in my heart, even if some of his other stuff was less than impressive.

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I should read it again.

 8. Anne of Green Gables and most of the other Anne Shirley books by L.M. Montgomery.  Yes, I went through a stage where reading about the everyday antics of Anne entertained me.  I still think of her fondly every once in a while.

9. His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.  This is another series that forced me to ask questions.  It makes me think.  I come back to it a lot when I’m thinking of religion and all that.

10. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t been exposed to this title thanks to the movies, but that’s not how I know it.  For me, it will always be that short, fun read that opened up the fantasy door.

What about you?  What are some of the books that have stayed with you over the years?  Feel free to list them here or on my social media accounts.

Productive Procrastination: Just Go With It

Hello, hello!  It’s been a slow couple of weeks writing-wise.  I’ve been re-reading Garnets and Guardians in preparation for another round of edits (it really shouldn’t have taken me two weeks to get through it, but I was lazy and not so productively procrastinating).  At the same time, Dad was doing a deep clean of the house and, when it came down to the last room or so, he started doing everything except cleaning what he said he was going to (he did the laundry, ran errands, put knobs and pulls on some cabinets and drawers, etc.).  When I picked on him for procrastinating, he denied it because he was doing things that needed to be done.  That’s exactly what productive procrastination is: doing things that need to be done eventually instead of what you’re supposed to be doing.  Apparently we all do it, not just writers.  I felt much better about myself when I realized that.

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It’s kind of like when you realize everyone poops.  You’re not a freak anymore.  And yes, this is a real children’s book.

 I know writers who clean their house or run errands or answer emails when they’re supposed to be writing.  I tidy up my computer files when I’m desperate to avoid writing.  I also volunteer to read for people when I’m looking for a break.  There are all kinds of ways to avoid what you’re supposed to be doing when you have other stuff to focus on.  I know some people who keep busy by working on a short story or two instead of the novel they’re in the middle of writing.  I’m supposed to start edits on G&G today, but I might just write a ten minute play instead.  Sometimes, the brain insists you do something else.  That’s okay.

Productive procrastination plays two important roles in life.  First, it gives you a well-deserved break while keeping you from feeling guilty for not doing something that needs to be done.  Sitting around and binge watching Netflix instead of writing feels like a no-no, but fold the laundry while you’re doing it and suddenly it’s not so bad.  And second, it gives us the motivation to do all the little things no one really wants to do.  I didn’t really want to do my checkbook the other day, but I didn’t want to read G&G again even more, so guess which one got done first.  It forces us to prioritize things.

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Exactly.

 Eventually, you’ll run out of things that are less painful than whatever you’re supposed to be doing, or you’ll realize you have a deadline looming, and you’ll suck it up and do the thing.  If not, then whatever it was wasn’t that important to you in the first place.  As long as you’re getting something done, take it as a win.  Yeah, I feel guilty when I don’t get my writing or edits or whatever done, but as long as I did something important in its place, I’m happy.  Every task completed during procrastination is one less thing you have to worry about the next day.  Enjoy it.

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Embrace the productivity.

Are you a productive procrastinator?  How do you decide when enough is enough and you should do the thing you’re supposed to do?  Is there a method to your procrastination or do you simply do whatever pops to mind first?  Feel free to share your words of advice with us.

See you next week!

Brace Yourself: NaNoWriMo Is Coming

Hello, hello!  It’s already nearing mid-October, which means November is right around the corner.  We all know what that means, right?  And no, I’m not talking about the election.  It means that NaNoWriMo is almost upon us.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s National Novel Writing Month.  Every November, a bunch of writers (new and old alike) try to write a short novel (defined by the website as 50,000 words) or a good chunk of a larger novel in order to win prizes and bragging rights.

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It’s like that.

 It’s a pretty interesting concept and their definition of “novel” is incredibly loose.  On the website, it says “We define a novel as ‘a lengthy work of fiction.’ Beyond that, we let you decide whether what you’re writing falls under the heading of ‘novel.’ In short: If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel, too.”  It pretty much just requires you to write 50,000 words on one project in 30 days.  That’s roughly 1,667 words a day.  The goal is basically quantity over quality with the belief that it’s more important to get the words on the page, then you can revise and edit everything later to polish it up.  And the forum provides a nice community area full of helpful tips and plenty of others who are also procrastinating (why else would you be in the forums?).

I know many people who participate (many of whom often win), but I don’t.  I’ve tried in the past and failed miserably.  Up until recently, I couldn’t even fathom writing that many words in one day.  Even though I’ve done it before, I doubt I could do it more than two days in a row, let alone 30 days.  I don’t believe in writing every single day anyway.  It becomes a slog if I do that.  So, maybe I’ll try NaNoWriMo again in the future, but for now, I will remain a bystander cheering on those who do participate.

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Part of the bystander’s job? Remind them to write.

 Why must we brace ourselves even if we aren’t participating?  Because, our friends who are doing it will be posting about larger than average word counts (I know some people are sensitive about this and that’s okay), they’ll bounce back and forth between love and hate for the new novel more often than usual, and they will generally be in a writerly panic throughout the month of November.  As bystanders, it’s our job to provide love and support and understanding during this process.  It’s also our job to gently remind them to keep on schedule or catch up when they miss a day.  We never tell them to quit.  If they don’t reach 50,000, we don’t recognize that as a failure, we celebrate the words they did write.  This is how we help.  We also remind them to eat and sleep and shower if need be.  The bystander’s job is an important one.

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This works for writers too, just make sure to include a computer or something for writing.

 Are you participating in NaNoWriMo or are you going to be a bystander?  Any words of advice for newbies on both sides?  If you need support and encouragement throughout the month (or want to talk about why your writer seems crazier than usual), don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Until next week!

Five Tips For Reading Aloud

Hello again!  Recently, I did a reading at Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s fifth annual Art & Words Show (for a look at last year’s show, see this post).  I fully admit that I was terrified, even though I was as prepared as I could possibly be.  It’s always unnerving to speak in front of a large group of people (or a small group, or anyone for that matter), at least to me.  So, I thought I would share a few of the tips I received before my graduation reading at Stonecoast, along with a couple of my own rituals.

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Me reading.  Pardon the blurriness.

1.  Practice.  In order to read aloud well, you have to read the piece out loud.  This seems like common sense, but a lot of people don’t do it.  It’s how you learn what lines or phrases trip you up.  It’s how you get a feel for the rhythm of the piece.  For me, it’s how I figure out where to take breaths since I run out of air quicker than most.  I tend to practice once a day or so for at least two weeks (mostly because I get anxious if I don’t).  You can practice in front of loved ones, or you can be like me and do it in front of the computer.  My desktop usually has pictures of people, so I get the feeling of eyes on me, but if I screw up, no one actually witnesses it.  But yeah, practice.

2. Don’t expect a distraction free environment.  If you only practice in complete silence with no one around, distractions during the actual reading are more likely to be noticeable.  And let’s be honest, try as they might, the people who put these things together can’t guarantee absolute silence.  Be prepared for a cellphone going off or a door opening/closing or someone coughing or whatever.  I practice with my phone on and Dad bustling around in the other room and the dog wandering around and all that.  It makes ignoring the minor distractions during the actual reading much easier.

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I can’t help with this.

3.  Wear something you feel confident and comfortable in.  If you look and feel good, it makes standing (or sitting) in front of people much easier.  It can’t be just one or the other.  If you feel smokin’ hot, but your legs are cramping up from those stilettos you aren’t used to wearing, your focus is going to be elsewhere.  On the flipside, if you show up in sweats and fuzzy slippers while everyone else is business casual, you’re going to feel out of place and your focus will still be affected.  So yeah, keep that in mind when picking an outfit.

4.  Have things scripted out.  This is more for the severe introverts like myself who don’t do well with ad libbing.  Write down everything you want to say and practice it along with your reading.  That being said, don’t freak out if you have to go off script.  You know exactly what you want to say, but you might have to reword it on the fly.  It’s terrifying, I know, but I find that if I have what I want to say in front of me, it’s much easier to pick out the main points and work them to fit the situation than it would be if I had to pick them out of thin air.

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This last one is for my nearsighted people.

5.  If you’re nearsighted and wear glasses, take them off.  I did this for my graduate reading and it made the reading much less intimidating.  The audience’s faces became a blur, so I couldn’t see any judgmental looks, but I could see my pages just fine.  For this recent reading, I kept my glasses on and kept my eyes on spots just above people or between two people every time I glanced up.  Avoid eye contact, but try not to make that avoidance obvious because apparently audiences like it when they think you’re looking at them.  It’s weird, but there are ways around it if it makes you nervous.

I admit that I’m not a seasoned reader, so any advice you can offer is welcome.  See you next week!