Sunday, December 1, 2013

The 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge!

So I've decided to participate in the 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge hosted on Bookish. All you have to do for the challenge is read as many books as you can from your TBR pile during 2014. Anything that was published in 2013 or earlier counts. And you have to write a review for anything you read.

Now I don't have a TBR pile. I have a couple TBR bookcases. So this challenge sounds great for me. You can check out the details of the challenge and sign up here: 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge. Bookish will be hosting mini challenges each month as well as doing giveaways.

They have a series of goal levels and you can move up a level, but you can't move down. So in order for it to be a challenge, I'm not going to pick the easiest goal.

21-30: First Kiss

That's my goal and here's my list of books from my shelves that I'd like to get read next year. (You don't have to stick to your list though.)

1. Hate List by Jennifer Brown
2. Being Friends with Boys by Terra Elan McVoy
3. The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride
4. Losing Faith by Denise Jaden
5. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
6. Teach Me by R.A. Nelson
7. Far From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters
8. The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
9. I Will Save You by Matt de la Pena
10. Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham
11. Bliss by Lauren Myracle
12. The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George
13. How Zoe Made Her Dreams Come True by Sarah Strohmeyer
14. Hold Still by Nina LaCour
15. Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares
16. The Whole Stupid Way We Are by Nicole Griffin
17. Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
18. Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
19. The Clearing by Heather Davis
20. How They Met, and Other Stories by David Levithan
21. Tilt by Alan Cumyn
22. The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg
23. Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield
24. My Best Friend is a Wookie by Tony Pacitti
25. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
26. The Paradox of Vertical Flight by Emil Ostrovski
27. How to Be Single by Liz Tuccillo
28. Palo Alto by James Franco
29. Divergent by Veronica Roth
30. Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Whew. I'm really excited to see how many of these I can move from my TBR bookcases to my I've-Actually-Read-This bookcases.

That's all for today, folks. Happy Reading!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Killin' It, YALLfest, and ALL THE FEELS

First I need to say I'M BACK, I'M BACK, I'M BACK! And I don't mean back to blogging, because I knew this would be sporadic.

I mean I'm back to writing!


I finally got my butt into gear on finishing this novel, and now it's looking like my goal of doing it by the end of the year is actually possible. And I owe it all to my wonderful VCFA classmates for giving me the kickstart I needed.

I wrote/revised 45 pages in one week. Then I wrote 10 pages in one day this weekend (on vacation!). And I just got home and I've written a few pages today.

I. Am. Back. And it feels really, really good to just be writing again. I remembered that I love this novel and that I need to finish it so that other people can love it too.

The one downside about my serious writing streak is that it's expensive. Because I still get too distracted when I write at home. So the cheapest option has been to go to a coffee shop to write. But usually I'm in the mood to do my writing late at night. As a result, I've become a regular at Denny's, showing up with my laptop, and sitting for a couple hours with French fries and a Coke. I'm really enjoying the routine, but if I don't finish this novel soon, I'll be poor.

In other news, I went to Charleston, South Carolina for YALLfest, a young adult book festival, this weekend. I met up with a few friends from school, which was ultra fabulous. Even though one friend got sick, which changed a lot of my plans.

I still had a great time, though. I think the highlight was getting to meet one of my writer heroes, David Levithan, and also hear him speak on a bunch of panels. And of course, I cried, because that's what I do. Hearing these authors talk about what they do and why they do it, and how hard they worked to get there always gets to me. I'm a sucker for an inspirational speech.

One thing I did realize though, was that I wasn't fangirling all these authors like their teenage readers were. Now it's not because I'm too mature for that. (I'm certainly not above fangirling!) I think it's because I can see them as actual people. People who are doing exactly what I want to do with my life. I won't go so far as to say I saw them as colleagues, but I could imagine that someday maybe I would.

And that's the overall feeling I left the festival with. I can do what they do. I will.

Finally, I want to share a bit about my writing habits. I almost always listen to music when I write. It's not always to put me into the mood of the story. Sometimes I use it in a more practical way, to block out the noise of the rest of the world. Usually I play pretty mellow music so that it doesn't actually distract me from my writing. But other times I do try to find music that matches the mood of whatever part of my story I'm working on. I always make an iTunes playlist for each novel, but that doesn't always fit a certain scene or emotion I'm trying to capture.

Tonight I found an awesome website that other writers might want to check out if you like to play music while you write. Actually, I've come across the website quite a few times before, and somehow I always forget about it. But I loved using it tonight.


Basically, it's a site where users can make playlists and share them. I'm sure it's not the only site like this, but I think it's great. What I really like is that you can search a tag and find lists people have made with that tag. You can search for a genre of music, an artist, or my absolute favorite--a mood.

This works FANTASTIC for writing. Tonight I searched for "confused" and found some great stuff. And I think the bonus of listening to other people's playlists is that I most likely won't know a lot of the music. And that means I can't get distracted by wanting to sing the songs. I can just feel them.

So to sum up the point of tonight's post: I am on a roll with writing!

Yay for me. Now I just have to keep it up.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Extraneous Words and Today's Small Word Count

Yesterday I cut about 1500 words from a short story to enter it into a Writer's Digest contest. I thought it was going to be impossible. After all, in a short story, everything is necessary, right? That's how it should be. I'd written the story over a year ago in one stream-of-consciousness sitting, gave it a little editing and sent it in for a grad school workshop. Haven't touched it since.

So when I started looking for places to cut, I didn't think I could lose any scenes. Instead, I took it line by line. My last grad school advisor taught me how to ruthlessly slash and burn unnecessary words when my grad lecture came out to be fifteen minutes too long. I was very resistant at first. Not that I thought what I'd written was absolutely brilliant. But I'd argue that all of my sentences were losing their style for the sake of making things shorter. In the end, though, I know the lecture benefited from all that cutting.

And it turns out, my short story did, too. It took a few passes, but in one day I managed to cut all of those 1500 words without losing anything at all from the actual story.

So that's my success for the week. Though it makes me wonder why we can't just write our sentences in the best, simplest way to begin with. But I guess sometimes we need to write our rough drafts the way we talk. With lots of um's and just's and really's.

Now with my contest entry submitted, I was determined that today would be the day I would get back on track with my novel. I'm already behind a whole week (meaning 10 pages) on my goal. And the second week is half over. So by the 14th I know I need to write 20 pages.

I'm in the middle of a scene right now. Usually, transitions are hard for me. Getting your characters into the scene you know is going to happen next. But once I'm in the middle of a scene, the writing just flows. Not today. Not the last five times I've opened my laptop to look at this scene. And it shouldn't be a difficult scene. I think I'm just having a really hard time getting back into a disciplined writing schedule. Writing because you know you need to. Writing when you have nothing to say. The part of being a writer that isn't fun.

I love putting words into sentences. It's what I do. So I wrote this blog post. Because it's just not going to happen for my novel today. But I did manage to write 275 words of the novel. That's something. I only hope my days start going better than this really soon.

I guess this post is pretty boring.

That's how my brain feels today.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

MFA=Master of WHAT?

So at 27 years old, I finally earned my MFA in Writing. A Master’s degree. But now, three months later, I have to ask myself: This makes me a master of what exactly? A master of waiting tables. A master of editing other people’s resumes. A master coffee-maker. A master of marathoning TV shows. Certainly not a master of writing.

Because I haven’t written more than a page of my novel since I finished school. Me. The girl whose main goal in life is to get published. But the thing is, I write all the time. I scribble new story ideas on a Post-It. I jot down a few lines of a poem, even though I’m clearly not a poet. I type up pages-long e-mails to friends.

Now I write blog posts.

I just can’t make myself sit my butt down to finish this damn novel. The first of my classmates, the brilliant and wonderful Cassie Beasley, has already signed with an agent. And a friend who didn’t even need to finish school, the now famous Cora Carmack, already has three books out and is working on three more. While I am thrilled for them and believe they couldn’t deserve it more, any time I feel myself starting to get jealous, I have to remind myself... I haven’t even finished my novel! 

I know I can’t begrudge others their successes when, right now, the only person standing in the way of my own is myself. I keep telling myself that after so many years of school, I deserve a long break. If I want to sit on the couch all day eating junk food and watching (and re-watching) TV shows on DVD, then I shouldn’t feel guilty about it. But after seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, two seasons of Supernatural, two seasons of Queer as Folk, and a season of Doctor Who... I’m starting to wonder if this isn’t only a much needed vacation. Maybe there’s a tiny part of me that is scared to sit down and try to finish my novel because I’m afraid I can’t do it. Or afraid when I do finish it, and try to get it published, I’ll fail. 

If that’s the case, then that part of me needs to be squashed like a bug. Except not really, because I’m the kind of annoying person who refuses to kill bugs, no matter how tiny. I’m sure we all have that fear of failure. I don’t think I can make it go away. But what I can do is use it. I can become more determined to get my novel published and prove myself wrong. Of course, I’d also be proving myself right, because for my entire life, I have believed that I would be a writer. I shouldn’t say entire life. 

The first time I remember having this conviction was in the third grade. When I wrote a story about my class just for fun, showed my teacher, and she had me read it to the whole class. And the class asked me to write a new story for them every week. That was when I knew that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I wrote those stories on my dad’s old typewriter. Back then, I’m sure I didn’t realize that doing it for the rest of my life entailed sitting at my kitchen table in pajamas, downing cups of coffee, and pulling my hair out. 

Even if I did, I don’t think it would have scared me away. I just have to remember that this is worth it. All of that time I invest (when I could be watching the Doctor save the universe instead) will be worth it when I’m holding a printed copy of my novel in my hand. And when strangers, instead of just my grandmother, start telling me that they liked my story. So it’s time to make a plan and dive back in to my writing. 

The goal: finish at least a draft of this novel by the end of the year. That means writing about 50 pages a month for the next three months. Boy, that’s going to cut way back on my time lusting after Jared Padelecki as he kills a demon. 

I joke about my TV addiction, but the truth is, I’m simply addicted to stories. And for a writer, that’s probably the best addiction you can have. I think all writers understand the value of experiencing other people’s stories. Whether that comes from reading a book, watching TV or a movie, listening to a song, or sitting around a campfire while your drunken friends talk about the time they almost got arrested. The art of storytelling can come in many forms, and just because my chosen form is the novel, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t study other forms. They’re all stories. And they all help inspire me to create my own.

So I guess this was my pep talk to myself. 


Do or do not. There is no try.

I started this blog because... well, at first I was procrastinating. But, like I said, I can’t not write. And if I’m not writing my novel, well at least I’m writing something.