A No Reading List Summer

Every summer since I had mine own library card, I have had a summer reading list.

Until now.  IMG_1011

Summer 2014 began, and I meant to cull together the books I wanted to read. To have some order, some purpose to what I pulled off of my bookshelves. But it’s July, and no reading list ever happened. For a moment, I panicked a bit–what if my lack of a formal reading list means that I don’t read as much? what if I get sucked into those terrible summer reality shows? what if, what if….

But most of the time, all of those what if’s really don’t come true. Unless by summer reality shows, you lump in anything on HGTV and I’m hopelessly going to watch. But I always read during the commercial break.

But not having a formal summer reading list taught me a few things about me and writing and this blogging life:

  1. Just because other bloggers have their lists doesn’t mean you need yours. Fine, I’m also hopelessly addicted to any reading list on the web–academic books, beach reads, literary fiction, sci-fi–you put a book in a list, I will peruse the list. I don’t have to follow the crowd. Most of what I like to read isn’t very beach friendly (I read a Faulkner novel for fun. Nothing about that screams beach read). Plus, summer is when I escape the well-ordered world of the classroom for a bit.
  2. Getting that GoodReads Currently Reading List under control. I admit to reading several books at one time. If you don’t believe me, there is quite an impressive Jenga-like tower next to my bed threatening to kill me in my sleep.  Right now, my currently reading list is somewhere around 7 with more being potentially added. I started all of these books with good intentions of reading them all, but oh look, another shiny new book or Kindle deal and another book on the list. Slowly, I have been finishing those books that I started and trying hard not to add too many more before I am done.
  3. Remembering why I love binge reading. This summer, I have been trying to make it a habit to read before bed rather than watch a rerun of The Big Bang Theory or the late news. Of course, TV shows have a definite end, but books have these magic chapters and you just have to read one more. Of course, it soon becomes 1am, and you finish said book knowing the next morning will require extra coffee. But there is nothing better than soft, cool sheets and a good book especially in the summer. It is the best magic in the world.

So, do you have a summer reading list? If so, share what’s on it in the comments.

7 Things NOT to Say to a Writer

Everyone should have one friend who is a writer. writer pens

In case, you don’t have one, you may consider me your friend via the interwebs because I hate people being left out. But really, everyone needs an in real life writer-friend if for nothing else, you may be immortalized in her work.

Maybe, you are a part of the lucky few who do have real live writers for friends, and you might want to keep them as friends. Because there is nothing worse than a pissed off writer working on a zombie novel–hint, hint, your character isn’t going to make it.

Of course, I digress. 

As a writer, I have a vested interest in bridging the growing chasm between writers and non-writers, simply because non-writers have a tendency to say or ask certain things that make writers crazy.

Here are 7 things NOT to say to a writer:

  1. “I don’t really like to read much.” Well, to borrow the cliche–this puts your relationship with said writer behind the 8 ball made out of C4. I’m not sure what compels sweet, caring people to tell me, a writer, that they don’t like to read. Of course, it is always AFTER I tell them I’m a writer. Even if reading isn’t your thing(I don’t understand why not, but okay), don’t tell me. A safe way to fix this faux pas is to ask me about my writing. I always like people to ask me about my writing.
  2. “When’s your book getting published?” A fair question, but let me be clear–publishing is NOT the end goal of writing. Just like being thinner or prettier or richer won’t make you happier, being published doesn’t make a writer any happier either. Writing is the end and reward.
  3. “Hasn’t somebody already written that?” The answer is probably. In fact, we could go even say that most of the truly “original” ideas for novels, short stories, plays, etc. already exist. The whole point of writing isn’t to say something new, but to say it in a new and creative way. How many riffs of Romeo and Juliet exist? A lot. Also, that idea wasn’t even “original” with Shakespeare either.
  4. “Aren’t there enough books already?” Enough? Are there enough scarves or quilts or crafts that involve mason jars? Yet, we don’t ask people who sew or craft or scrapbook if there is ENOUGH of whatever they make. So, rule of thumb: don’t ask a writer if there are enough books out there already. Just don’t do it.
  5. “What if you run out of ideas?” This is loosely translated in any writer’s mind into: WHAT IF YOU FAIL! We writers always have that worry, the horrible specter of writer’s block hovering in the shadows, so reminding us of it doesn’t really help. For most of us, we sit our bottoms in our chairs and hit those keyboard keys until something starts clicking. Then, thank God that revision exists.
  6. “Oh, well, everyone needs a hobby.” Let me be clear–writing is not a hobby. For me, writing is my life, my obsession, what keeps  me both sane and tipping toward the chasm of insanity. A hobby suggests that I can just leave it when it isn’t fun any more or I find something better. This is not writing. Even when I’m not writing, I’m listening to how people talk, waiting for inspiration–a phrase, an image– anything, composing plot lines in my head. Writing is my life.
  7. “What if no one reads your stuff?” Of all the other 6 things not to say to a writer, this one hurts the most. All writers want someone to read their work. In fact, this writer would love nothing more than if you would subscribe to my blog and read my stuff. We worry that what we write won’t resonate with anyone besides ourselves, and what makes this hurt the most is that a friend is asking this question. If a writer shares her work with you, take a minute to read it.

What else would you add to this list? Share in the comments section.

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For the Infinite Collector of Books

Somewhere on my resume, I should have the title: Infinite Collector of Books.

I really also should be in some 12 step program for this literary addiction. 

If you were to visit my home, you couldn’t help notice just how many books I have stacked and double-stacked on sagging bookshelves. I prefer the term collector rather than hoarder, but really there isn’t too much difference. IMG_1009

I set up alerts in my iPhone for the Dollar Days sale at the used book store.

I know what time the nearby Barnes and Noble closes, the aisles and genres in Ed McKay’s, and the fastest way/cheapest way to get the most out of my Amazon Prime membership.

Lest I should forget, the library located down the street from my house and the wonderous thing that is InterLibrary Loan. As if the title of poet/writer didn’t clue you on my love of the written word, let me just spell it out for you:

I’m a bibliophile, and I love books.

But even good things, like books, can turn into a wretched white elephant if we’re not careful. Because I could/always will be able to justify used books or the occasional new book, I accumlated more books faster than I could read the ones that I had already bought. See the problem? Lots of books+ More books= a reader with shelves of lovely short stories, poems, memoirs, novels–ALL UNREAD.If you follow me on GoodReads, I even created a whole shelf for books that I own, and most of them fall under the category of “to read.”

As cliche as it sounds, part of the solution is admitting that I have a problem.

But the other part of the solution is doing something about it! While it will break my heart and help my wallet, I’m giving up buying books for awhile or even checking books for myself at the library.  I need to read what I own before I parade any more writers, novelists, poets into my house to sit upon those tired shelves.

Beginning today, I’m giving myself a bit of a summer reading challenge.

I’ve selected 11 books from my own library that I will read. In order to bring any more books to my loving home, I have to finish all 11 books. Now, I’m not setting a timeline or some due date because I already have a long wish list/library list of books waiting for me. Throughout the summer, I will blog about my progress through these books. How much I love/hate/apathetic toward these books…there could also be some wailing and gnashing of teeth…

IMG_1010

The Read Your Shelves Challenge:

  1. The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin
  2. Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin
  3. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  4. Sinners Welcome: Poems by Mary Karr
  5. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  6. Ariel by Sylvia Plath
  7. The Writing Life by Annie Dilliard
  8. Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty
  9. A Year in the Life of Shakespeare by James Shapiro
  10. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  11. Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro

What books on your shelves need to be read before you get new ones? How many do you have unread?(I can neither confirm or deny that I have A LOT)

to autumn

 

Today, I’m reading my poetry aloud for you. Click the link below to enjoy.

 

to autumn

I.

earth absorbs

summer’s final breath–

an orgasmic rasp

of climax, submission–

gone.

 

II.

drift down, deep denseness.

sun colors leaves like a messy toddler,

scribbles over the green

with copper, coral, yellow.

blow–

all fall down.

 

III.

marrow slows,

bones creak

in disjointed time.

we hobble

into another phase

of this world

still holding the last

by its rotten hair.

 

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10 Books a Week: To Read

On Monday, I shared my 10 books of faith.

On Tuesday, I shared my favorite poets.

On Thursday, I shared my favorite novels.

Today,

I am sharing my 9 books on my to read list…

Yes, I know there should be 10, but here are my To Reads for a long while.

  1. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen: I put off reading this book to focus on the darker mash-ups for Austen novels. Now, it is time for the real thing.
  2. The Scarlet Pimpernel by The Baroness Orczy: I saw the movie in college. I liked it. I hope the book is better.
  3. Middlemarch by George Eliot: If I finish this book, I deserve a medal.
  4. Grace (Eventually) Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott: I adore everything she writes. Enough said.
  5. Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis: My college professor raved about this trilogy. I only cared about what was on the test. Time to remedy my ignorance.
  6. Confessions by Saint Augustine: The time has come to make peace with this misogynist. Perhaps, reading his whole work will lend a bit more context to his narrow views on women.
  7. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving: My blogging friend Alise will be thrilled, and I bought it to read too.
  8. Wicked by Gregory Maguire: I love the musical and hoping the book is better. Although, it would be nice to have the musical score play at the appropriate times in said book.
  9. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: Don’t take away my feminist card just cause I haven’t read this book yet. See it’s on my list (grasps feminist card firmly).
  10. ____________________________?

What book should fill in the #10 spot? Share your suggestion in the comments. 

Check out Sarah Bessey’s blog for her reading suggestions this week!

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10 Books a Week: Novels

On Monday, I shared my 10 books that changed my faith.

On Tuesday, I shared with you the poets who have specifically influenced my poetry.

Today, I am sharing my current favorite novels…

Be reminded that this list changes sometimes weekly, daily, or yearly.

What you may see this year could shift again….

8 out of 10 novels…I can’t remember which “safe” place I put the other 2

Without further eloquence—

10 of my favorite novels

  1. Pride and Prejudice: If you think that this book is only at the top of my list for Mr. Darcy, you are quite mistaken. Darcy is a bumbling ass, and he needs Elizabeth Bennet to temper his pride. A strong woman and strong man make this my favorite novel.
  2. Frankenstein(not pictured): I adore Mary Shelley’s work, and this book discusses the idea of God, creation, and humanity better than any other novel. It begs the question–who is truly the monster?
  3. Jane Eyre(not pictured): I put off reading Jane Eyre far too long. But thanks the urgings of my lovely, non-jerky college friend, I read it and loved it (of course, I’m still waiting for her to read #6 at my urging).
  4. Fahrenheit 451: I read this book in one day, and when Bradbury passed this year, I felt like an old friend died.  Of course, we never met. The scene discussing who is which book haunts me.
  5. The Left Hand of Darkness: I read this SciFi novel in May/June. It raises interesting questions about power and sexuality. What if we didn’t possess a specific gender until we needed to mate? How would that change our views of gender politics?
  6. The Hobbit/ Lord of the Rings: Growing up, my mother told me to read these books. I balked. Mother was right(again and again).
  7. Madame Bovary: While I am not always so insistent on whose translation to read, you MUST read the Lydia Davis translation. Unlike other translations, hers captures Flaubert’s sentence structure, nuances of language.
  8. Tess of the D’Ubervilles: I love how this book evokes so many emotions and doesn’t require a happy ending to do so. Of course, I’m not sure any of Hardy’s books really have a happy ending.
  9. The Phantom of the Opera:Not the musical, the novel captures my imagination and heart. The nuances, the characters, the beastly goodness of the Phantom, beautiful in every way.
  10. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: My senior year of undergrad, I was supposed to read Cancer Ward for a research project. But laziness and the shortness of this book overcame my lofty ambitions. It is gritty and hard, but what do you expect from a Russian novelist who spent time in the Gulag?

Honorable mentions: Dracula, A Tale of Two Cities, A Visit from the Goon Squad, Villette, Persuasion, Harry Potter Years 1-7, Gilead.

Be sure to check Sarah Bessey’s choices(from whom, this wonderful book listing venture hath come).

What novels would make you favorite novels list? Don’t worry, I won’t hold to your list if you won’t hold me to mine.

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Wrong Answers

I just finished reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s sci-fi novel The Left Hand of Darkness

I’m struck by ways that she presents gender, sexuality, and race(this book would be a fantastic example of Judith Butler’s performativity theory). Here’s one quote that still has me thinking:

“You don’t see yet, Genry, why we perfected and practiced Foretelling?”

“No–“

“To exhibit the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question.”

 

What do you think? Do you agree? What books are catching your fancy this week?

 

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How I Feel

Right now, 

I feel tired, stressed, worn out, fatigued, empty, drained, lacking all forms of energy…

AND the coffee isn’t helping.

What is helping?

Laughing, writing, smiling, reading, snuggling under a blanket, lighting candles…

AND

Crazy Face Ophelia

Who can resist a puppy? Yes, I may look at this every so often too.

Want to help me feel less stressed or not look like that cute puppy? Subscribe today!

 

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Fiction Friday

As a writer of fiction, short stories, and maybe, an occasional novel, I will be sharing some of my works in progress on Fridays.

Welcome to the 1st installment of Fiction Friday.

“Ma’am, I’m going to need to see what’s in that vase,” said airport security. He passed her precious urn to a fellow worker. Her long manicured nails didn’t quite get a good hold, and the faux Ming Dynasty urn slipped from the grasp of the TSA worker. Crash, thud, shatter. Hilda saw everything blur except the urn, and she shoved her way through the metal detector slipping on polished floor to get to her only carry on luggage. “Oh, shit,” she muttered softly. “Oh, shit, oh, shit.” The TSA worker chomped on her bubble gum loudly and stared at Hilda bending over the ashes, the shards of her dear Robert’s urn.

Somehow, time slowed down as her fellow travelers maneuvered around her. Hilda remembered the day she and Robert picked out their matching urns. The flea market aisles were hardly large enough for Robert’s electric wheelchair around, but it made him so happy to be with other people. He never noticed their cruel stares, whispered comments like Hilda did. She heard every word. But Robert insisted that they pick out how his ashes would be displayed, and Hilda never could refuse Robert anything. The white urns with bright blue peacocks mimicked some ancient Chinese pottery, but they would look nice on the mantle. Until that damn TSA worked dropped Robert’s urn and let his ashes mingled with the sweaty feet, dirty shoes, and dust at O’Hare.

Perhaps, bringing Robert along was silly. She didn’t need anyone flying with her before. When she could find work, she jetted from LAX to JFK to RDU. She sweated her ass off in Bombay, nearly froze in Moscow. She never needed Robert by her side because he was waiting at home. Before the accident. When she wasn’t wiping his ass or giving him medicine, she tried to find work on smaller commuter airlines. She never did. They didn’t appreciate her running off to tend to Robert because hospice failed to show up, or he woke up with night terrors again. Always reliving the crash, the river, the near drowning.

But he was gone. With no one waiting for her at home, she took her sole companion with her. He often bemoaned that Hilda got to see the world, and he was stuck in that goddamn wheelchair. She swore this trip to Brazil would make up for his lack of exotic travel. Of course, she wished she could just have her teeth bonded in the States, but her dental insurance wouldn’t cover such a procedure. Too risky.

Sitting on the ground, she looked up to see two young flight attendants saunter past security and into the staff only room. Their uniforms wrinkled from sitting down, and Hilda rolled her eyes at their lack of professionalism. There was only one way to keep those uniforms perfectly pressed till boarding, and she knew it. But her airline didn’t care for her outdated ways.

“Ma’am, you going to clean this up?” asked the impatient security worker. “ Or do I need to call security?”

Question: what should Hilda do next? Offer your suggestions in the comments. 

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Happy 6 Days til Christmas and a Giveaway!

Happy 6 days till Christmas!

Today and this week, my newest collaborative project The Dark Jane Austen Book Club will be featuring a series of guests posts and a few awesome giveaways!

For those of you who don’t know, the Dark Jane Austen Book Club delights in the adaptions of Ms. Austen’s works with such things as zombies, vampires, and sea monsters. We will be giving away a copy of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters to one lucky reader.

So, why not head over to The Dark Jane Austen Book Club, and enter to win this book giveaway?