Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Here’s to Nano (Again)

My writing life has suffered lately. Sure, just life in general has played a part in that. The whole job, kids, husband, running (then injuring myself, resting, and running) kind of life in general. But it’s not just that.

Like so many other writers and creative types, I suffer from depression. I’ve written about my depression before, and every time it still feels fresh and strange to put words to keyboards. Through it I’ve managed a few submissions and queries, lots of rejections, and finished a new short story. But…that’s been about it. For months and months on end. The idea of exorcising these ideas and stories and characters from my head felt physically exhausting.

I slept too much and too little.
Ran too little then too hard, hurting myself.
Ate too little then too much.
And stubbornly, desperately, achingly refused to write.

I’m coming out of the other side of a really bad depressive episode, and what good timing! NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an annual, month-long literary event. In short, you write 50,000 words in a month. Long version, you drink lots of coffee and tea and alcohol, write a bunch of shitty words, and then in December and January whittle and edit it down into a better second draft.

Here's to all the beer that will be
drunk this November.
NaNoWriMo doesn’t allow for second guessing of work. It allows for plot holes and characters who switch names halfway through a manuscript. It creates a 30-day period where you’re just racing to create your story. And right now that’s what I desperately need.

I first participated in NaNoWriMo back in 2005 or 2006, but created a new account when I wanted a new username. According to this account I’ve been at it since 2011 and haven’t missed a year yet, although I’ve only “won” twice. So who am I to break this streak?

Anyone else participating in NaNo this year? If you are, add me as a writing buddy!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Banned Books Week 2017

Chances are that you’ve read at least one banned book in your lifetime. Judy Blume usually springs to mind around this time of year, but what about Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendak, JK Rowling? That’s right, someone read Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic and thought, “Hmm, not appropriate for children.”

Guys. Guys.

Banned Books Week occurs every year and serves as a “celebration of the freedom to read.” The reasons behind challenges to books can vary, but they all come back to the same thing – censorship. Attempts to censor literature often comes under the veil of trying to shield children from so-called inappropriate subjects. Which is probably one of the worst things you could do for a child’s curiosity. Taking away information doesn’t sate the hunger, it only makes it grow stronger.

Banning books (or attempting to have them banned) is still going on today, which is absolutely crazy if you think about what kids and teenagers can more readily access on the internet. I am one Google search away from videos about fetishes I didn’t even know existed. Exposure to difficult topics inside the context of a story can be much more beneficial than a quick few minutes on the internet, which lacks the nuance of characters and plot that can put things in perspective.

They have no choice but to be nerds.
I normally try to read a banned book during this week, but ended up not doing so this year. Although, I’ve been reading Harry Potter with my kids (we’re up to Prisoner of Azkaban), so technically I’ve been on board the banned books week for months now. Look at me, ahead of trends!

What banned books have you read lately? Or were some of your childhood favorites commonly banned or challenged?

Monday, January 9, 2017

I Bit the Bullet (Journal)

To say that notebooks are my thing would be like saying that dogs have a mild affinity for bouncing tennis balls. I buy notebooks like I buy books: ravenously and in quantities that border on wholesale. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate used book stores and the library.

When I first saw bullet journals popping up on Pinterest I ignored them because I already journal, make daily to-do lists, track my runs with an app, and use Goodreads for books that I’m reading. Adding something else in just didn’t make sense, especially since I’m not a particularly artistic person.

Eventually I gave in to Pinterest peer pressure (but I won’t be handcrafting birthday goodie bags, dammit). I'm not doing it strictly by the books (ba dum tss) or using any type of specially-designed notebook, because if I'm going to stick with something, it needs to be on my own terms.

I'm using it to make my daily to-do list which actively replaces what I was using before, but otherwise the bullet journal is in addition to everything else. Because I’m a person who likes lists. They make my life feel tidy and organized even when it’s anything but.

Read #3 was awful. Just awful.

I'm only a few days into the bullet journal, but I'm liking it so far. It combines: 
  • my love of lists
  • bright pens
  • keeping track of the little things that happen throughout my day.
I still journal in my, well, journal, but I usually only sit down to do so at the end of the day, and the bullet journal is handy for jotting down a quick thought, story idea, or just something that happened that I'd like to remember.

Plus, I may not be creative, but come on this is kind of cute.

I hope that you all had a fantastic winter break and enjoyed your holidays. We spent our time being lazy, reading, and enjoying this bomb-ass fire pit that my parents got us for Christmas.

Have you started any new habits recently? Or do you journal regularly?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Coffee, Books, and Curse Words

Want to read my flash fiction piece Words in the Library? Great! Go to thestoryshack.com on Aug. 11, 2017. Yep, those guys know how to plan ahead. If you haven’t visited the site before, it features beautiful illustrations with each story, and it’s an honor to have one of my stories selected for publication with them. They also have a neat writing prompt generator that you can customize, so be sure to check that out.

Now on to more important things, like this absolutely perfect mug:

This was one of two gifts that I've already opened because, come on, friends open presents early right? These gifts from my two best friends absolutely kicked the butts of the gifts that I gave them. Did I mention that the book also came with a Starbucks' gift card? Coffee, books, and curse words. I am an incredibly simple person.

Other than work, it's these incredibly simple things that I'll be filling my time with over the upcoming winter break. See, I'm not really a Pinterest mom. I'm more of an oh-my-god-why-are-you-doing-that-please-just-go-outside-because-I-don't-care-if-you're-bored mom. Which is OK, because what I lack in crafts and a desire to lovingly construct elaborate elf scenes throughout December, I make up for with this simple love of books.

After snack and homework, before she jets off to play with her friends in the cul-de-sac or at the park, we have quiet reading time. Sometimes the little guy joins in, sometimes he plays with his rock collection, but it's a chance to have a quiet moment with my kids while we gently ignore each other and enjoy one of the few true joys in life: reading.

Also, do you enjoy YA books? Then visit The Starving Bookworm, who just so happened to give me that book (and homemade treats, because I know ya'll jealous). She recently wrote about The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which you should immediately add to your TBR list.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Why I Run

Years ago I read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. At the time I wasn’t a runner, but Murakami is undoubtedly one of my favorite authors, and so there was no question about whether I would read his running memoir. From what I can remember it was pretty good, but it didn’t have much of an impact on me otherwise.

I was a smoker. Super, duper overweight. Terrified of all things exercise.

Now, I get to call myself a runner. I’m in training for my first half-marathon and it seems like it’s a good time to pull Murakami’s running memoir back out and give it a second go.

But this also got me thinking about my own reasons for running. Health and weight-related issues are the reasons I started, but now they’re only part of why I keep going. Unlike other forms of exercise, like strength training or swimming laps or even yoga (the latter two of which I actually really enjoy), there’s a definitive freedom to running.

There are headphones in my ears. An audio book or maybe a podcast going. Myself. And sometimes this crazy kid:

For me, this is pure, beautiful freedom. Especially coming from my *ahem* very non-athletic background in which running was absolutely never an option. Sometimes I forego the headphones when I really feel as if I need to clear my head or I’m trying to work out a story idea, but for the most part, those earbuds are plunked firmly in there.

My love of running parallels my love of writing. At its most basic there is freedom. All this talk of freedom makes it sound like I’m trying to run away from something, but it’s more than that. Different. It’s freedom to expand my world and push up against its edges, to swallow up everything I see and reincorporate it back into something real and tangible.

Even if sometimes naps sound more fun.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my blogger friends in the U.S., and happy regular Thursday to everyone else.

I'm enjoying spending time with my parents whom I haven't seen for TWO YEARS. My dear, wonderful daughter decided to seize upon the opportunity to display my parenting skills, and leaned over to my dad on the ride home from the airport to tell him, "This song has 'mother fucker' in it."

Also, here's a reminder of how ugly these mother fuckers are before we cook them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

New Release & Giveaway: Piper Morgan to the Rescue

My daughter recently hit the exciting stage of *dun dun duunnnn* chapter books!

I worried over whether my kids would take after my love of reading, especially with my husband’s deep love of gaming and the easy access to consoles and computers in our house (OK, I like gaming too). So after my daughter was born I did what any parent would do: I read and read and read to her.

Bedtime stories started when she was still an infant, and her brother joined in on the nightly ritual when he was born. When she headed off to kindergarten I started reading chapter books during bedtime, going through one or two chapters a night or even more when the book was especially good. And now?

Now she reads some of those chapters to me. I cling to this nightly ritual, even as she sets off to finish certain chapter books by herself. We’ve read a lot of a Junie B. Jones (who my daughter thinks is extremely naughty), Roald Dahl, and many of the Dragon Master books by Tracey West. There have also been the Monster High and Big Fat Zombie Goldfish books that have taken us in. It’s these nightly chapter books that got me so excited to discover Stephanie Faris’ Piper Morgan books.

As we’re about to start the Piper Morgan series, a new one is hitting the shelves! Piper Morgan to the Rescue is the third book in the series and I already can’t wait to get to it.

Piper Morgan to the Rescue

Piper helps some four-legged friends find the perfect home in the third book of the brand-new Piper Morgan series.

Piper is super excited to help out at Bark Street, a local animal shelter in town. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by adorable puppies and dogs all day? And when Piper sees Taffy, the cutest dog she has ever seen, Piper is determined to find a way to bring Taffy home. But it won’t be easy—especially when she finds out someone else wants to make Taffy a part of their family, too!

The author is a pretty cool person, too.
Stephanie Faris

Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, as well as the Piper Morgan series. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive.

Still want to know more about this lovely lady? Find her pretty much everywhere on the Internet.

(Fun story, Stephanie, I used to live just a couple hours away in Memphis!)

Stephanie is also giving a way a free copy of Piper Morgan to the Rescue. What could be better than that? A free copy that also happens to be signed. Don't miss out on the chance to get your hands on this book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway