Welcome to this Saturday Edition of What We’re Writing and Reading.
We’re taking a little detour on the weekends now to 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!
Jamie Wallace: This week saw an unseasonable return to the hot and sticky weather of deep summer. It also saw me beat a retreat to my air conditioned living room with the cats and my laptop. Happily, the uncomfortable weather was just a minor blip on the radar and now it is safe to venture back out and revel in the almost-autumn air.
I love fall. I love the back-to-school vibe that hangs in the air, even though it’s only my daughter who has returned to the classroom. I still get a sense of a new start when September arrives. After the chaos of the summer “schedule” (I use the term loosely), resuming a more regular routine feels like sinking into the comfortable embrace of a favorite chair.
My calendar continues to be full of client projects (thank you, gods of freelance writing), but I’m also looking forward to a possible lightening of the load in the next few weeks and will be plying my craft on myself as I endeavor to reinvent my marketing website. Wish me luck.
While I wait to embark on that “adventure,” I still write and read as much as I can. Here’s what crossed my path this week.
What I’m Writing:
Although I almost didn’t have time, I managed to crank out a post for my marketing blog. The deadly “shoulds” of blogging is one of those posts that showed up announced and demanded to be written. I had a list of a half dozen other, more business-y topics queued up in my head, but when it came to it I just didn’t feel like writing any of them. I was sitting at my desk (rather late at night, wishing I could go to bed) and getting into a bit of a funk about feeling obligated to write about a topic that wasn’t really interesting me.
So, instead of hacking my way through a half-hearted post I decided to write about feeling obligated and cranky. I wrote a quick little manifesto about the evils of “shoulds.” It was fun to write and I hope it might help some other bloggers and would-be bloggers feel less intimidated and guilty about their own blogging efforts.
I also recorded myself reading the post which is something I’ve been experimenting with and rather enjoy doing. As a huge fan of audio books, I have a great appreciation for good voiceover artists. I “should” probably be embarrassed about the quality (or lack thereof) of my own performance and recording, but this is one of those cases where I feel it’s better to go out with something imperfect than to wait on the sidelines hoping I’ll get it right someday. Someday has a bad habit of never arriving.
For those of you interested in experimenting with audio, I use a free app called Audacity to record, edit, and export (to MP3 format) my audio and then I upload to SoundCloud – an excellent and oh-so-cool audio hosting platform (also free). I believe you can record directly into SoundCloud, but I haven’t tried that yet. If anyone does some audio experiments, please let me know. I’d love to listen!
What I’m Reading:
I’ve had four books going this week, but I only finished two of them. Unsurprisingly, they were the shorter ones. (That’s what comes of sneaking reading in while I’m making dinner, waiting at the orthodontist’s office, and eating a hurried lunch.)
The Van Gogh Cafe (affiliate link) by Cynthia Rylant (one of my favorite children’s authors) is a book from the children’s room at our local library. I have read it a couple of times before – to my daughter at bedtime. The book is comprised of six short, connected stories and a charming introduction on the matter of magic. My past readings were purely for pleasure, but this time – although I still enjoyed the stories thoroughly – I also read with a writer’s eye. I have been thinking about writing a collection of connected short stories, and The Van Gogh Cafe is a wonderful example of a simple yet elegant approach to the exercise.
I loved the voice Rylant uses for the stories and the simple language. The sentences are short and to the point, but still manage to convey a sense of place and emotion. Although each is about how magic manifests at the small cafe in Flowers, Kansas, they also have an aura of plainness that is quite disarming.
The second book I read is one that has been sitting on my bookshelf for years. It’s odd that I picked it up this week – the twelfth anniversary of 9/11. Kurt Vonnegut’s collection of essays, A Man Without a Country (affiliate link), is a frank though at times humorous discourse on the state of the world and in particular the country of his fellow Americans. Described by Publisher’s Weekly as “like Garrison Keillor with a savage undercurrent,” the book delivers Vonnegut’s thoughts in short bursts, punctuated by his artwork.
Though I have read many of Vonnegut’s fiction books, I wasn’t sure what to expect from A Man Without a Country. Though much of what he says is depressing – even despairing – he manages to maintain hit wit and humor while providing some much needed perspective and a sound reality check. This is a book I will likely read again.
I also especially enjoyed two more essays from the wonderful new site/online magazine, Full Grown People:
And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:
- 8 Practical motivations to blog when know one is reading it by @markwschaefer – Written for business owners, this post still has a lot of relevance for writers trying to establish a platform. Blogging can be a lonely business, but even when it is … it still has value.
- Best Business Advice for Writers: August 2013 by @JaneFriedman – Another great wrap-up from this experienced publishing pro.
- Follow The Fear: Do Things That Scare You by @annhandley – Though Ann wrote this presentation for a business conference, the story and message apply to anyone who has ever felt held back by fear.
- The Secret to Writing Faster by Karen Dionne – I found this fascinating and would never have thought it to be the case. I’m going to experiment with it myself.
- How to Be Happy (Research) by @GregoryCiotti – Not strictly for writers, but we’re often stereotyped as a universally morose group so I thought this might be of interest.
- Launching an Online Community: Q&A with Author/Entrepreneur Alexis Grant by @JaneFriedman – A behind-the-scenes look at a new writers’ community that looks like a great resource: The Write Life.
- The 6 Best Book Marketing Blogs by @chrisrobley via @bookbaby – A good place to start if you’re researching how to sell your book.
- Essential Tools to Organize Your Book Manuscript by Mary Carroll Moore (whose name always reminds me of Mary Tyler Moore) via @GrubWriters – I’m putting the book she mentions, A Writer’s Time: Making the Time to Write (affiliate link) on my “to check out” list. 🙂
- And a feel-good story: Librarian Quietly Saved $1 Million For Gift Back To Library … how cool is that?!?
Finally, a quote for the week:
Now … go write and read and then write and read some more. Have a wonderful weekend & we’ll see you on the other side! 🙂