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Welcome to the Weekend  Edition in which I share a little of what I’m up to with my writing (when I’m not here) and what I’m reading (between the covers and around the web). I’ll also pull back the curtain a little on my version of the writing life (but not so much as to be indecent).

I hope you enjoy this little diversion and encourage you to share your own thoughts, posts, and picks in the comments. I LOVE hearing from you and seeing the world from your perspective.

Happy writing! Happy reading! 

Jamie

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question roadAll Writers Doubt Their Ability. Every. Single. One.

Writers doubt their instincts. They doubt their talent. They doubt their choices. They doubt that they will ever be as good as the other writers they admire.

Doubt does not discriminate. It gets all of us – from the most virgin newbie to the most seasoned veteran.

Only last week, J.K. Rowling admitted that she regretted her pairing of Hermione and Ron in the Harry Potter series.

In a post inspired, I can only imagine, by that news, New York Magazine (not to be confused with The New Yorker) published a post chronicling the regrets of some of literature’s best known icons. Among those on the list are Mark Twain (who looked back and wondered if he should have written Tom Sawyer in the first person) and Stephen King (who rewrote almost every page of The Gunslinger for a later edition).

Even my recently rediscovered favorite, E.B. White, openly expressed his doubt. In a letter to his wife he despaired over progress on a piece he was writing, saying, “Have reached the stage where I am suspicious that it is perhaps the lousiest concoction I have dreamed up to date …” Boy, don’t we all know what that feels like!

So, the next time you’re feeling down about your work and facing down your demons while battling an awful case of comparisonitis, please remember that you are in good company.

What I’m Writing:

hayThis has been a very busy week in terms of client work, so I haven’t had a chance to do much personal writing except for my morning journaling.

Although I’m always so grateful to have work, I absolutely get frustrated when things get so busy that I have to rush through everything and still wind up working late (and early) and having to forego many things I would like to do (such as taking the day off to share my daughter’s snow day). The ebb and flow of work is, however, a very real part of life as a self-employed writer. Sometimes, work is scarce and you have to busy yourself with personal projects while you wait for the next paying gig. Other times, you manage to find the Holy Grail of the freelancer’s life – a balanced workload. And then there are the times when your work queue is like a slow-motion, twenty-car pile-up and all you can do is sit by and watch while clinging to the feeble hope that when everything stops spinning you’ll be able to go in with the jaws of life and extract survivors.

The key to survival is to roll with the punches. As I explained to my ten year-old daughter at bedtime last night, a self-employed writer has to make hay while the sun shines. Sure, it’s a bit stressful when all the work gets compressed into a short period of time; but even so I wouldn’t give up this lifestyle for anything. I know that, eventually, things will level off and I’ll have a few weeks of blissful breathing room. I can’t wait.

What I’m Reading:

Meantime, even though I haven’t had time for creative writing, I made time for some reading. I know enough that I can’t lose both my writing time and my reading time without risking my sanity. So, last weekend – when I found myself in a momentary lull brought about by the various balls I’m juggling being in other people’s courts – I parked myself on the couch with a couple of books and didn’t move for the better part of the day.

Interestingly, the two books I wound up reading this week are polar opposites in terms of style and craft, voice and genre, and even era.

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First, I blew through the middle grade novel, The Angel Experiment: A Maximum Ride Novel (Book 1) (affiliate link). I borrowed the book from the library for my daughter who recently read The Hunger Games trilogy and has since found every other book wanting. Betsy, a lovely woman and fabulous children’s librarian, recommended the “Maximum Ride” series by prolific author, James Patterson. I have never been a huge fan of Patterson because of  his writing “model” of working with ghost writers (something he discussed openly in an interview on NPR, “James Patterson on Writing All Those Books“). But, I was desperate to find something my daughter would read.

I read the entire book in just a few hours. It’s a fast-paced urban fantasy with chapters nearly as short as the ones in Dan Brown’s blockbuster, The DaVinci Code. The writing is simple and straightforward. There is lots of exposition. The characters are fairly one-dimensional. The plot twists feel manufactured and not totally unexpected. Reading this book was kind of like eating an entire bag of cheese curls in one sitting. It was entertaining, but there was no substance. Chewing gum for the brain. Still, if it gets my daughter to re-engage with the written word, I’ll be happy.

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On the opposite end of the spectrum is a collection of letters and essays titled E. B. White on Dogs (affiliate link).

Let me say that I have long been an ardent admirer of White’s work. His books Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little were two of my first favorite books. It wasn’t until recently, however, that I came across some of his essays and swooned a little. This collection is especially charming because each of the included items is somehow related to dogs, often to White’s own dogs, a diverse bunch but mostly comprised of dachshunds.

This is the kind of writing that on the one hand inspires me and on the other hand makes me want to abandon writing all together. Each of these pieces – whether a professionally published essay or a casual letter to a friend – is full of beautifully crafted sentences that elicited from me quiet but emphatic (not to mention outwardly audible) grunts of appreciation.

Reading two such different types of books, one so close on the heels of the other, forced a comparison that otherwise would seem ludicrous. But, like Andrea Badgley observed in her recent post, Growth Spurt, writers often become critical readers. While Andrea’s epiphany focused on the role of good structure in a work of fiction, I was struck by the vast range of quality. If The Angel Experiment was a bag of cheese curls, E.B. White’s writing was a beautifully arranged and deeply satisfying platter of fresh fruit, aromatic bread, and a selection of the finest cheeses money can buy … all accompanied by a perfectly paired glass of merlot with a bit of dark chocolate for dessert.

There really is no comparison when you get right down to it.

Does that mean I will never read another “cheese curl” book? Nope. I will read plenty of them, I’m sure. But, I will know and appreciate them for what they are, and I will only indulge every once in a while. After all, if people are what they eat, writers must certainly be what they read.

P.S. – Little side note and bit of trivia: our own Wendy Thomas is the great niece of E.B. White. Quite a nice, if intimidating, bit of literary heritage there!

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

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And that’s all from me.

I hope the rest of your weekend is full of time to write and read. Remember that we all have our doubts and the only thing to do is push past them and get the words on the page. You can figure out the rest after that.

Thanks for stopping by! See you on the other side. 


Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Image Credits:

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Welcome to this Saturday Edition in which I share a little of what I’m up to with my writing (when I’m not here) and what I’m reading (between the covers and around the web). I’ll also pull back the curtain a little on my version of the writing life (but not so much as to be indecent).

I hope you enjoy this little diversion and encourage you to share your own thoughts, posts, and picks in the comments. I LOVE hearing from you and seeing the world from your perspective.

Happy writing! Happy reading! 

Jamie

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slow motionWorking with words is not for sissies.

As I continue to recuperate from my unfortunate encounter with this year’s flu virus, my muse has been gently reminding me that although writing may not be as physically grueling as manual labor, it can be just as exhausting. At first I was disappointed (and even a little embarrassed) that I wasn’t able to be more productive during my convalescence. I had assumed I’d be able to prop myself up with my laptop and just zip right along as usual – cranking out blog posts, case studies, and branding frameworks.

My downed immune system had other ideas.

Turns out that it’s not just my body that’s temporarily moving more slowly, my brain has also downshifted. Things that would normally take me an hour, take two. Ideas that usually come with, if not ease, at least a certain modicum of grace now have to be winched out of my addled brain.

Slowing down is hard.

But, like any working writer, I just keep plodding ahead – one word after another and then lots (and lots) of editing. It’s what we do. The thing is, even when I am feeling crappy, I still want to write. When most normal people would just want to curl into a couch coma and sleep, I’m itching for my journal or even (yes, I’m that crazy) a few minutes hacking away at a client deliverable. Even when it’s extra hard because my head is all foggy, I still want to play with ideas and words. I still want to create.

Maybe this makes me slightly insane, but I hope I never experience a day without the urge to write. I hope that on my death bed, I’m still reaching for pen and paper so I can scribble just a few more words.

What I’m Writing:

winter book

Reading the Winter Away

In addition to my client projects, I republished another of my columns on my blog. Reading the Winter Away was one of those pieces that came together quickly after many false starts.

Though I only publish these columns every other week, I always seem to be writing them at the last minute. This can be dangerous if I haven’t quite settled on a topic and don’t know exactly how to get started. Before finally getting this essay down, I started two other (completely different) pieces that I eventually abandoned because my thoughts just weren’t coming together. (This was, I’m sure, a lingering side effect of flu brain.)

What wound up helping was just sitting quietly for a few minutes and letting my brain ramble along a completely random path. I stopped trying so hard to find the “right” topic, and instead just let the topic come to me. When it did arrive, it was so simple that the writing was easier than I’d expected. Sometimes, we just have to make our brains shut the hell up so we can hear what our hearts have to say.

What I’m Reading:

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So, fellow Live to Write-Write to Live blogger, Wendy, now has me hooked on the graphic stories of Nick Bantock. After reading her review of his new creativity book, The Trickster’s Hat, I was intrigued enough to start exploring his other books. Bantock’s best known creation is the Griffin and Sabine double trilogy in which a mystical story is told through a series of letters that are beautifully rendered in Bantock’s unique collage-style artwork.

This week I read the first two books in the series: Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence (affiliate link) and Alexandria: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Unfolds (affiliate link). I have the rest of the series on reserve at my local library and am hoping they arrive soon so I can continue the saga.

Though the letter-format has its drawbacks, it’s an interesting way to share a story. I miss the immersive nature of reading a true narrative – the sense of place and atmosphere – but Bantock’s beautiful art helps to fill that void by creating a visual universe for his correspondence.

elizabeth taylor

(Image from Wikipedia)

On a serendipitously coincidental note, I also listened to a wonderful short story called “The Letter Writers” by British author Elizabeth Taylor. The audio production of this short story was featured on The New Yorker’s fiction podcast and is narrated by Paul Theroux. Taylor is, apparently, an oft underrated writer whose domestic stories about everyday life lack the flash and verve of much of today’s popular literature. “The Letter Writers,” however, seems to touch on some very contemporary themes as it unfolds around the initial meeting of a man and woman who have been corresponding by post for ten years. I loved hearing the story read aloud and also enjoyed the follow-up conversation between Theroux and the podcast editor and host, Deborah Treisman. If you have forty-five minutes to spare (perhaps while making dinner or folding the laundry), I highly recommend the story.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

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Here’s wishing you a week of  story exploration, story creation, and story appreciation. May your days be filled with productive scribblings and your nights with the luxury of  free time and good books (or, vice versa if you’re a night owl). All the best until next week! :) 

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

“Slow Motion” Photo Credit: bubbo.etsy.com via Compfight cc

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Welcome to this Saturday Edition in which I share a little of what I’m up to with my writing (when I’m not here) and what I’m reading (between the covers and around the web). I’ll also pull back the curtain a little on my version of the writing life (but not so much as to be indecent).

I hope you enjoy this little diversion and encourage you to share your own thoughts, posts, and picks in the comments. I LOVE hearing from you and seeing the world from your perspective.

Happy writing! Happy reading! 

Jamie

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tea heartAnd then my world stopped for just a bit.

One of the perils of being a self-employed writer is that when you are felled by some vicious illness, getting the rest and relaxation you need isn’t as easy as calling in sick and curling up on the couch with three seasons of Arrested Development and a bottle of NyQuil. Nope. Being sick when your a solopreneur is not nearly as fun as that.

This week I got hit by the flu. It sidled in on Sunday evening and by midday Monday the fever was shaking me so violently it made me drive erratically on the way to pick my daughter up from school (which, in retrospect, was probably a bad thing for me to be doing in such a state). It took forty-eight hours for the fever to break, but I soon realized that a high temperature was only part of the fun this particular virus had planned for me. To make a (very) long story short, I lost the entire week. I just couldn’t do a thing. Even showering was optional.

By yesterday, I had enough just energy and coherence to handle one client call, a few emails, and a couple aisles at the grocery store. Worst of all, I had to muster the courage to assess the depth of the hole I’d fallen into as far as work was concerned. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty deep one because just before I got sick I was in the process of kicking off several fairly sizable projects. Despite generous offers of assistance from a couple of compassionate colleagues, as a freelance writer, I’m pretty much on my own because my work isn’t the kind that can be delegated or outsourced.

So, on this Saturday, I am – despite still being doped up on all kinds of cold & flu meds – trying to rally my brain so I can start catching up on my lost days.

As I work-convalesce, I’d love to hear from other deadline-bound writers. What’s your plan when illness takes you out at the knees? Do you call in reinforcements, wave the white flag, try to muddle through and hope you don’t write like a blithering idiot? I’m curious … and open to suggestions.

TKS and stay healthy. Seriously. You don’t want this thing.

What I’m Writing:

snowy owlSo, obviously, I didn’t get much (any) writing done this week. I did however republish one of my recent columns – this one about a few feathered friends who have made a much-heralded appearance in the small, coastal New England town where I live. I was lucky enough to catch glimpses of both the birds featured in Winter’s Feathered Royalty, and it was quite a thrill. (Geek secret – I’ve been an amateur birder since I was about seven years-old. In fact, many of the drawings in my first sketch book are of local birds – sparrows, cardinals, titmice, etc.)

Though I refer to myself as a “someday novelist,” writing these columns is also helping me to explore other types of creative writing, specifically creative nonfiction. I am also discovering a personal predilection for writing about nature. This shouldn’t surprise me. I’ve been writing about nature since I was a kid (I kept nature journals alongside my private diaries). Though I have always known on some level that many people make a living writing about nature, I’ve never considered myself qualified to be a “real” nature writer. Still … there are a hundred different ways to approach the topic. I’m definitely going to give this some more thought.

What I’m Reading:

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I had hoped to catch up on some reading while bedridden and couchbound, but – alas – I didn’t even have the energy to indulge my inner bookworm. Apart from napping, I actually succumbed to the siren call of the television. Instead of slipping into a good book, I sank into an over-medicated binge of sitcoms and comedy shows. I even watched a little daytime programming, but only the ellen show (and who doesn’t love Ellen?).

The only book I did manage to read was one I picked up after reading Wendy’s review of Nick Bantock’s creativity primer, The Trickster’s Hat. In addition to buying myself a copy of that book, I reserved a few more of the author’s books including the entire Griffon & Sabine series and one called Urgent 2nd Class: Creating Curious Collage, Dubious Documents, and Other Art from Ephemera (affiliate link). It was this last one that I ended up reading.

I enjoyed getting a peek behind the scenes at Bantock’s creative process and techniques. Although his art is primarily visual, there is a strong element of story in each piece he creates. He pulls together otherwise disparate bits and pieces to create a cohesive image that has both artistic and narrative merit. The book is full of examples of his unique collage work and each one could provide the spark for a story.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin fifth time reading

As always – thanks for being here. I wish you good writing and happy reading and a HEALTHY rest of the weekend. 

:)
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Tea Mug Photo Credit: ben matthews ::: via Compfight cc
Owl Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar via Compfight cc

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Welcome to this Saturday Edition of What We’re Writing and Reading in which I  share some of what I’m up to with my writing (when I’m not here) and what I’m reading (between the covers and around the web). I’ll also pull back the curtain for a peek behind-the-scenes.

I hope you enjoy this little diversion and encourage you to share your own posts and picks in the comments.

Happy writing! Happy reading! 

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headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: Morning. (Yawn). How are you on this fine Saturday? I have to be honest. I’m a little sleepy. I usually like to write these weekend edition posts on Friday afternoon, but this week’s best laid plans fell all to pieces when my daughter’s sniffle landed her on the couch for two days. At the end of the day yesterday I had two options for getting this post done: forgo an evening of relaxation with my beau, a couple Boboli pizzas, and a bottle of chardonnay, or rise and shine extra early this morning. I chose the rise-n-shine option, so … here I am.

And, I have to thank you.

You see, you guys are awesome accountability partners. I love to read and I love to write, but sometimes it’s hard to make time for these things in the midst of my already busy life. Wanting to make sure I have things to share with you on Saturday morning motivates me to eke out an extra bit of reading time reading. It helps keep me on track with my blogging outside this blog and even my column writing. The fact that you are interested enough to show up each week makes me want to show up each week. In short, you inspire me to be here.

So, thank you for helping me up my game. I really appreciate it.

Now, on to the goods for this week:

What I’m Writing:

brick wall

Background Image: Wikimedia Commons

Over on my marketing blog I wrote a piece called Tell Me Why I Should Care. I took a different approach to my writing style on this one. To be perfectly honest, I was a little stumped for a topic. When you write about the same topic each week for – ahem – years, it can start to become difficult to find a fresh new angle. Sometimes you hit a wall. You get a little burnt out. Last week was one of those weeks.

I just didn’t feel like I could tackle a long-form post, and I didn’t feel terribly inspired. But, as all professional writers know, it’s not about waiting for inspiration. It’s about getting the job done by the deadline. So, I puttered around my house a bit and mulled over what was blocking me. I realized that I was having one of those downer moments that come from writing your heart out on a blog, but never seeing the results you hope for. It’s like getting all dressed up for a party, and then no one even knows you’re there.

My blog is an important part of my marketing business. It’s wonderful resource for prospects and clients alike, and I’ve had quite a few posts that have performed decently in terms of shares and comments. But, more often than not, my little blog posts get swallowed up in the echo chamber of the great social media blog promotion machine. It breaks my heart a little, because I really do care about my work and about helping people.

That’s when I landed on the idea for my post – tell me why I should care. The post is a bit of a reminder to myself and also, I hope, a thought-provoking inspiration to others who are trying to make their mark in the online space, or anywhere else for that matter. The piece is short (only 225 words), and written in the form of one side of a conversation. No exposition. No explanation. Just one half of an imagined dialog. It was fun to write, and – I hope – makes my point in a creative and memorable way.

What I’m Reading:

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This week I indulged my inner child (and my inner writer who wants to write for children) and enjoyed two fabulous and classic novels by masters of the genre. The first was Eva Ibbotson’s Island of the Aunts (affiliate link). I picked this up hoping my daughter might enjoy it (and I could lure her away from the Hunger Games trilogy). Ibbotson was an Austrian-born British novelist. She passed away in 2010, leaving a rich legacy of children’s and young adult books. I had read reviews in which she was called the “Rowling before there was a Rowling,” and – since my daughter loved the Harry Potter books – I thought I might persuade her to try Ibbotson’s stories.

Though I wasn’t able to compete with Katniss, I was intrigued enough to read Island of the Aunts myself, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It had that slightly old-fashioned feel that often seems part and parcel of British children’s stories. I can imagine the narrator as an older man or woman with a crisp accent, a wry sense of humor, and a knack for delivering back-handed compliments. The story is part adventure and part eco-tale and includes a wild cast of characters who are both startling and charming.

What hooked me was the first line, “Kidnapping children is not a good idea. All the same, sometimes it has to be done.” What a fabulous way to start a story, right?

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The second book I picked up was Tove Jansson’s Moominland Midwinter (affiliate link). I had vague memories of reading Moomin books when I was a kid. The illustrations were immediately familiar to me (in fact, I saw a couple that I remember copying into my sketch book), but the stories had long wandered out of my head to make room for other things that, upon reflection, have perhaps turned out to be less worthy.

Jansson, like one of my other favorite authors, James Thurber, does not write “down” to children. Both authors were also artists and, in particular, cartoonists, who had a wonderful way with language and didn’t skimp on their use of it when writing to the younger set. There are bits of humor and wisdom in their books that I’m still discovering at age forty-four, and I expect I will continue to discover new gems long into my golden years.

The Moomin books are set in a land that is at once unspeakably strange, peopled as it is with all manner of oddly named and shaped creatures – Little Creeps, Gaffsies, Grokes, and Fillyjonks – but it is also a place where I feel completely at home. It gives me a sort of, as Douglas Adams liked to say, an “oh, well, that’s alright then,” kind of feeling. I’m looking forward to going back to visit soon via some of the other Moomin books.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

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And that’s all for this week. 

Thanks again, truly, for being here. Always so nice to share part of my writing journey (and my weekend!) with you. Happy reading & writing. Go create something! :) 

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: If you still read print books, what do you do with the books after you’ve read them? (Also assuming they aren’t library books or loaners from friends that need to be returned!)

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: The only time I buy print books these days are if they are books I know I want to keep. They are usually nonfiction. I tend to mark up my books and return to them again and again. Once in a while I read a fiction book in print and those I will usually pass on to a friend. I used to hoard books but I’ve come to realize that if I ever really need to find a book again, I’ll be able to access it somehow–in print or digitally. That’s allowed me to donate a lot of books and helped prevent me from accumulating too many.

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson: Good question! I’m still an uber fan of print books (I have a Kindle with lots of books on it, but have yet to read any on there!). If a book gets signed by the author, I keep it. I have a few huge bins of books that will be with me for a long time. Most of the time I will either give my books to the library or trade them in at an Annie’s Used Bookshop for credit to buy other books. A select few books I’ll give away if I know just who to give it to – and even ask them to keep sending it forward if they know of someone else who will read it.

headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: Well, a good many of my books are still hanging around. I have a difficult time parting with them. The state of bookcases brings David Foster Wallace’s quip to mind, “Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.” I not only have picture books that date back to my daughter’s infancy (She’ll be turning ten this weekend!), I have picture books from my own grade school days. I have novels I bought more than a decade ago and haven’t yet started to read. I doubt I’ll ever read them. I have leather-bound orphans from special edition collections whose remnants I bought at library book sales. I have tattered paperback copies of the SciFi favorites of my teen years (some of which may or may not have once belonged to the public library).

I am trying to mend my ways. I try very hard, now, to only buy books that I really (really) love. I borrow from the library more often than I succumb to the impulse to hit Amazon’s lethal One-Click button. I use my Kindle to sample things and then make an “informed decision” about whether to borrow or buy. I am also preparing (mentally and emotionally) for a major book purge. I know I need to lighten the load on my shelves, and I’m certain that many of these books would live happier lives elsewhere. It will just take me some time to work my courage up to say good-bye.

Some will be donated, like many before them, to local school libraries. Some will find their way mysteriously into the book basket at the local coffee shop. Others will be gifted to specific friends and acquaintances  who I think might enjoy a certain tale. There will likely be a large and densely packed book table at the yard sale I’m planning for the spring. And, finally, a few may make their way out into the world to land in unexpected places – a picnic table in the park or a set on the train – with a note inscribed, “I am not a lost book. I am your book. You were meant to find me. Hello.” And then they will begin a new story all over again.

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: I have a lot of books. I don’t buy books often, but I still have a lot of them. My shelves are full, and I have three piles that need a home. Conferences give them out, friends release new ones and I go to their signings, you get the idea. Now here’s where I am with the question asked–I actually don’t wait until I’ve read them any more. If it is a book someone else would enjoy, I give it to them. When my niece’s school did a book drive, I gave them five boxes. I keep combing through the shelves looking for the next box to give away. When I have dinner parties, I offer books as parting gifts. I bring them to summer houses and leave them. I also donate them (especially the mysteries) to senior centers.

dll2013Deborah Lee Luskin: I live in a big house with lots of bookshelves that are filled, and there are stacks of books in each room of the house (including the kitchen). Some books come and go; many stay, including a completely filled bookcase of children’s classics in the attic! It’s easy for books to come into the house, not so easy for them to get away, but we’re working on it. And time helps: some of the old paperbacks simply fall apart. I try to take comfort in the idea that knowledge lasts forever, even if books don’t. Other books I give away; I’ve been pretty diligent about passing on duplicate copies from my teaching days. And with three grown children, books travel between our different homes, coming to rest beside someone’s bed. If/when we downsize, we’ll have to part with books. But in the meantime, even though I know I can find a lot of what I might need to know on the internet, I still like having the books around. If nothing else, all I need is a candle if the lights go out.

 

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Due to a recent burst pipe in the attic, I had a change to move a lot of ‘stuff’ around in order to make room for ceiling repairs. It’s been like spring cleaning, but in the dead of winter. I’ve made quite a few discoveries as I’ve sorted into a keep and toss piles.

Common Phrases and Where They Come FromOne of my discoveries is this great little book called Common Phrases and Where They Come From by John Mordock & Myron Korach.

I thought it would be fun to share some snippets of phrases I find myself using – and the history behind them.

I start off with the phrase and how I use it. The bullet points are my summaries of the write-ups within the book.

The phrase “all agog” has me seeing someone with mouth wide open in great surprise. It turns out, I’m not far off.

  • Medical practitioners noticed that when somebody was anticipating a great happy event, their eyes became lustrous and animated. This eye condition became “goggling eyes,” and groups of people stood “with all eyes goggling.” Then, over time, the phrase became “all agog.” (Disappointment resulted in “all aground.”)

I think “apple of my eye” refers to the person/people that one loves or cherishes. Children are usually the apple of their parents’ eyes, right?

  • Long ago, people in the medical field closely studied the pupil of the human eye and concluded it was apple shaped. The pupil became known as “the apple of the eye.” Then, since the eye was considered as vital as life itself, the gallant hero began to call his love interest “the apple of my eye.”

Although not one I’ve used, “bandy with words” strikes a chord with me as a writer. How can a writer not love to play with words?

  • Turns out, it basically means to talk a lot about nothing! It morphed from a game called ‘bandy’ (described a lot like table tennis), where opponents hit a ball back and forth until one of them misses. Bandy = hit and miss. And to people watching the game, it seemed pointless (ooh, my own pun!); so bandy eventually became associated with idle conversation.

As a mystery fan, I enjoy “red herring”s in stories — particularly trying to figure out what clues are false. And it’s quite fun as a writer to add them to my stories.

  • Campaigning politicians spend a lot of time focusing on matters irrelevant to real issues. It was first known as “dragging a red herring across the trail” then got shortened to “red herring”. It was also used to describe scholars using illogical points to try to prove a thesis. And it was also used to (literally) describe criminals who used strong-smelling smoked red herrings to cover their scent as they ran from justice. Bloodhounds eventually had to be trained to tell the difference between true scents, and that of smoked red herring.

These are just 4 small examples of the fun with phrases people have had over time.

This is a fun book to read through.

Isn’t it amazing how some phrases have morphed into what we use them for today? I find it fascinating.

Is there a phrase you’re curious about?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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Welcome to this Saturday Edition of What We’re Writing and Reading in which we share some of what we’re up to with our writing (when we’re not here) and what we’re into with our reading (around the web). We’ll also pull back the curtain a little to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what went into a piece.

We hope you enjoy this little diversion and encourage you to share your own posts and picks in the comments.

Happy writing! Happy reading!

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headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: Although I posted here last Saturday, it seems like this is the first “official” Saturday Edition for 2014. Last weekend was sort of still on the border of the old year, somehow. It felt like a hanger-on, lingering after the party is over, not entirely sure it wants to go home.

But now we are truly into 2014. Most of us have returned to routines and work. I am personally relieved. Though I enjoyed my time off and a whole slew of days with my daughter (including an extra forty-eight hours courtesy of the snow storm), my writing self was craving a return to normalcy. I was dreadfully and desperately overdue for some quiet time. I had work projects to dive back into, but just having the house to myself was a nice change of pace.

Though being a writer does not mean you are automatically tend towards being quiet or solitary, most of the writers I know personally do seem to have these personality traits. Even the most gregarious of my creative friends admit to needing alone time to regroup and renew. That is definitely a theme that is top of mind for me at the moment. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

What I’m Writing:

pin be quietThough it’s not writing, I did “create” something this week. Well, technically, I curated it. After a long respite, I have returned to Pinterest and rekindled my love for this visual platform. In addition to creating a private board full of images about my personal word of the year, I created a board called “Quiet and Solitude.” I found it strangely soothing to scroll through hundreds of pins with images and sayings about silence and being comfortable in your own company. It is reassuring to know I’m not the only one with these yearnings.

I also wrote a column on the topic of slowing down and reclaiming January.

take it slowJanuary, even when its days are full, has always brought a wintry quiet that is a welcome counterpoint to December’s spin cycle of joy. Even though most of us resume normal routines after New Year’s Day, January still seems to be a month in repose, its days stretched long and languorous by the absence of holiday tasks.

To the uninitiated, this shift in energy can come as a bit of a shock. Our tendency is to continue barreling forward, fueled by the momentum of the previous months. We become ambitious cleaners and organizers, dive enthusiastically into planning and new projects, try to catch up on old tasks, or get a head start on new ones.

In short, we completely miss the point. (Read more …)

2014 sparklersI also wrote a piece for my marketing blog, The Only Way Your Business Can Compete in 2014. Don’t let the word “business” throw you. This post is (once again) about branding, which is very applicable to the business side of being a writer. Interestingly, the topic of this particular post is about connecting with your “customers” (readers) on an emotional level – something that writers and artists of all kinds are uniquely suited to accomplish. Unlike the B2B companies I work with, artists naturally deal with emotions and know how to create stories and messages that resonate at that level. THAT is exactly what marketers of all kinds – whether for widgets or novels – need to grasp in 2014. So, you’re already ahead of the game. Isn’t that great? :)

What I’m Reading:

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I have several books going at once at the moment, but the one I’d like to share with you is The Annotated Hobbit (affiliate link).

I first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was in the third grade. I have read them numerous times since then, but it’s been a while since I re-read The Hobbit. I bought this annotated edition of Tolkien’s classic last year at this time after seeing the first part of Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy. Last weekend, I went with my parents, beau, and daughter to see the second movie in the Hobbit trilogy and was inspired to (finally) crack the cover on this book and learn more about the story’s history and roots.

I’m only a few pages in, but it has been fascinating to get a behind-the-scenes peek at Tolkien’s life, process, and inspirations. The world of Middle Earth is unquestionably the most detailed fantasy world ever created, but it isn’t until you read about how it came together – piece by piece – that you can really start to get a sense of the work that went into building out the history, mythology, landscapes, languages, culture, and politics. It really does make your head spin.

I’m curious, have you ever read any annotated texts? This is my first, but I may look for others.

I also read a beautiful essay that my friend Tracy Mayor (@mommyprayers) shared on Twitter: The Raven and The Crane was written by Julie Hill Barton for Two Hawks Quarterly. It’s a gift from one writer to another.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

google drive trackerI also wanted to share a fabulous word count-tracker spreadsheet template that my writer friend Elisa found. It’s built on Google Drive (formerly Google Docs). The spreadsheet lets you tracks your daily word counts and color codes each day based on how many words you log. It gives a beautiful and simple at-a-glance view of your productivity and also helps motivate you. To use, click the link to download and then go to File > Make A Copy and save to your own drive.

Finally, a quote for the week:

Following the theme of quiet and solitude …

pin introvert writers

Thanks, as always, for sharing part of your weekend with me. I wish you peaceful quiet and creative solitude. See you on the other side!

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: We’ve been having some stormy and wintry weather around these parts, and that got us to wondering – are there certain books that you especially enjoy when you’re snowbound or all cozied up against the Arctic temperatures?

dll2013Deborah Lee Luskin: I have enough of a bead on my novel – voice, characters and action – that I’m able to read fiction again without what I’m reading unconsciously spilling over into my book. A friend just sent me Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain, which I’m loving, especially as I lost my old dog in August. And I’m (still) listening to an audio edition of Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter while I knit. I try to keep up with my New Yorkers as well as all the other magazines and newsletters that come in to the house. And of course, I’d rather read than file 2013 or start on my taxes . . .

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headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: There are absolutely certain books that are more alluring to me during the long, winter months. The one I’ve reread most is Winter’s Tale (affiliate link) by Mark Helprin. It has been several years since I’ve stepped into the Helprin’s beautiful yet dangerous world, but I still carry with me the sense of wonder and magic that I felt when I first read the story of Peter Lake – orphan, burglar, and master mechanic – and Beverly Penn – a young New York heiress who is dying. This novel is nothing if not sweeping. Helprin’s language is poetic and his deft world creation skills blend the details of his magical surrealist New York with the historical one. The story spans the entire 20th century and a diverse cast of characters, but my favorite element of the story is the white horse, Athansor. The details of the narrative elude me, but I’m glad of that. It means that when I sit down to reread this tale, pieces of it may still come to me as a surprise. For the moment, while I wait to open its cover, I will just enjoy the lingering images of racing across the frozen landscape of upstate New York in a sleigh drawn by a horse that seems to fly, a mysterious cloud bank that hovers on the edges of New York harbor, and the manic passion of a man trying to build a bridge to another world.

P.S. – There is a movie version of this book coming out in February. I do not have high hopes that this book will translate to film well, so if you plan on seeing the movie, I’d recommend you read the book first! ;)

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson: Wow, Jamie, funny you mention Winter’s Tale, that’s been in my TBR pile for a while now and it’s coming up in the queue – the title makes it seem like a great winter book. I’ve only heard great things about it, so look forward to delving in. Short story compilations are great in the winter (or any time), as they offer different length stories. 1997 Best American Mystery Short StoriesI’m currently reading The Best American Mystery Stories 1997, edited by Robert B. Parker. Some authors I already know, others I’m getting to know. And I also find large serial novels fun to read in the winter. Such as any Diana Gabaldon book in the Outlander series (Scottish men in kilts and time travel), or (my newest) The Game of Thrones series.

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: I agree with Deborah, I love reading in the winter. Right now I am in the #JanNoWriStart mode, so I am spending nights writing. But I have three books on the TBR pile. One is Jab Jab Jab Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk. His Crush It helped me figure out how best to use social media. This book promises (and so far delivers) how to land the right hook. I also downloaded the Man Booker prize winner The Luminaries. I listen to the podcast BBC Front Row Daily, which is all about arts and culture. Heard an interview with the author, Eleanor Catton, and it sounds great. The third TBR book is The Artists Way at Work. A friend recommended it, and I am hoping for some illuminating moments. Once the Agatha nominations are out I will add mysteries to my piles.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I don’t have any books that I read specifically in winter, but I definitely have books that I’ve read more than once, and that I plan to re-read again. Many of those are books from my childhood–The Good Master and Harriet the Spy come to mind. Also, I’m looking forward to reading the Harry Potter series to my son when he gets old enough (I hope he’s as into it as I am!) I re-read Bird by Bird at least once a year, and I have done The Artist’s Way three times and I hope to do it again. (I hadn’t seen The Artist’s Way at Work, Julie, but I’ll definitely check it out!) These days I listen to books more than I sit and read–I just finished listening to Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes, and I’m looking forward to reading more of her books.

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Welcome to this Saturday Edition of What We’re Writing and Reading in which we share some of what we’re up to with our writing (when we’re not here) and what we’re into with our reading (around the web). We’ll also pull back the curtain a little to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what went into a piece.

We hope you enjoy this little diversion and encourage you to share your own posts and picks in the comments.

Happy writing! Happy reading! 

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headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: Hello! Hello!

Though I only skipped a week (in honor of my unplugged holiday), I feel like it’s been ages since I’ve been here. What a difference a year makes, right?

garage snowSpeaking of, I hope everyone had a lovely holiday and a splendiforous New Year. Ours was quiet (just the way I like it) and cozy. I did manage to stay up until midnight, but only because my daughter wanted to (it was her first time). Watching the ball drop on Times Square never really did it for me, but I do love those moments of anticipation leading up to that finale. You can’t help but hold your breath a little as the old year slips away and the New Year takes it’s first, tentative breaths in the cold, cold air of January first.

Today – this first Saturday of the New Year – finds us New Englanders buried in snow and a deep freeze. My phone told me it was -3 degrees fahrenheit this morning (with a windchill of -17!). Good day to stay in and WRITE!

What I’m Writing:

morning pgs 2013I had a few days off around the holidays, but I didn’t do much writing. There was so much going on with family and friends, and – to be honest – I just needed a few days of having absolutely no obligations, even to myself. So, I took lots of long walks (including several through the dunes where we saw beautiful snowy owls), slept in, and read (we’ll come to that in a moment).

One thing I did do was read through and summarize my 2013 morning pages. This collection of early am ramblings (three pages each day) fills up a half dozen spiral-bound notebooks. As I write these journal entries, I make marks in the margin (usually a star, sometimes an initial) when I’ve captured something that I may want to remember it later. On New Year’s Eve, I sat down with these notebooks and created a summary of all the things that I’d highlighted. I copied over certain passages and just noted topics for other entries. In the end, I had a list of dated, mini entries that encompassed my “important” thoughts for entire year.

As I read this list over, I saw themes emerge and the evolution of ideas that started as small sparks at the beginning of the year and became crackling fires by the end  of it. I wasn’t surprised to find that my starred passages vacillated between business ideas and creative ideas. As in life, my written world is a bit cut in half – leaping back and forth between the writing that pays my bills and the writing (and other creative projects) I long to do.

I would like to make 2014 the year I finally bring some of my creative projects off the page and into reality. I made baby steps at the end of 2013, and I believe that I can keep on making those baby steps until one day I look back and am awed by how far I’ve come.

What I’m Reading:

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I did take some time to read. I had so many choices and have several books (fiction and nonfiction) in progress, but the only one I finished was Ann Patchett’s collection of essays, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage (affiliate link). I had listened to the title story via Audible (twice, actually – I liked it that much), and was delighted to find that it was only one piece in a larger collection. These stories were the perfect companion for a quiet winter’s day. Two of them moved me to tears and one made me want to stand up and cheer (I won’t tell you which). Each and every essay made me think and see a bit of the world in a different way. From dogs to floods to writing and independent bookstores, from military training to family to aging … Patchett covers the vast territory of human experience with grace, humor, and more than a little wisdom.  Often, the stories she tells are small, in that they are personal and intimate; but that somehow makes them all the more universal.

I borrowed this book from my local library, but I may have to buy my own copy because I have a feeling it’s a book I’ll want to return to again and again.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

In honor of all our intentions for the New Year:

pin i am an artist

As always, thanks for being here and sharing part of your weekend. 

So glad to be back. 

Happy New Year to all & happy writing & reading!!

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This is the last Saturday Edition post of the year. Since this past March, we’ve shared forty-three Saturday mornings with you and it’s been such a nice way to start the weekend.

On this Saturday morning, only a few days away from the Christmas holiday, I would like to take a moment to thank each of you for taking time out of your weekend to come by our blog and share what you’re reading and writing. It’s no small gift, and we are so grateful that you seem to like being here as much as we do.

I’m taking some time off and won’t be returning until after the New Year, so this is my last chance to wish everyone a warm and bright holiday and all the best for a brilliant and peaceful New Year. You’ve helped make my 2013 a joy and I’m looking forward to 2014.

Merry-merry & happy-happy!

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P.S. – While I’m away, here – in no particular order – is a collection of links to selected past Saturday Editions. I hope you have fun perusing the archives and maybe (re)discovering a new book for your reading list or a new blog to follow. Enjoy & see you on the other side! 

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write drunk edit sober sm

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small town smyoga strength smdolphin_sm

dirt earthmud heartpin bang headnovember crowsknow like trustpin the book you wantcanada geese smIpswich Riverstory in headqt_read_not_alonesandollar smtiny storiesspider smPin Bookstore MusicalSM clouds 2firefly jar smheart1smcricket_sm2

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