Baby, it’s cold outside. We’re talking below freezing with wind chills in the don’t-even-think-about-going-outside zone. This is the perfect weather for curling up on the sofa with a good book, a piping mug of tea, and an electric blanket (optional: two body-warming cats). But even if such an indulgence isn’t in the cards for you today, you can still give yourself a little reading treat with this week’s collection of shareworthy links. So, brew up your favorite hot drink and settle in. I hope you enjoy these writerly and random finds.
Books I’m Reading:
Earlier this week a writer friend of mine mentioned a fantastic workshop she took with the novelist & short story writer Rebecca Makkai. Inspired by her enthusiasm for her workshop experience, I bumped Makkai’s novel, The Hundred-Year House to the top of my reading list. And, I’m oh-so-glad I did.
The Hundred-Year House is a beautifully crafted novel that tells its tale backwards in three parts (1999, 1955, and 1929) plus a prologue that takes place in 1900. It’s a complex story involving a large cast of characters, layers of artistic exploration, and recurring themes and details. From the Makkai’s site:
When Doug’s mother-in-law offers up the coach house at Laurelfield, her hundred-year-old estate north of Chicago, Doug and his wife Zee accept. Doug is fascinated by the house’s previous life as an artists’ colony, and hopes to find something archival there about the poet Edwin Parfitt, who was in residence at Laurelfield in the twenties (and whose work happens to be Doug’s area of scholarship). When he learns that there are file cabinets full of colony materials in the attic, Doug is anxious to get to work and save his career—but his mother-in-law refuses him access. With help from friends, Doug finally does access the Parfitt file—only to find far stranger and more disturbing material than he bargained for.
The book has a Gothic flavor complete with a sprawling mansion, mysterious suicide, and resident ghost. It’s a story of secrets that are sometimes hard to untangle told in a way that puts the reader under a dreamy spell while simultaneously compelling her to turn the pages in quick succession. I read this book in two sittings over as many days because I just didn’t want to tear myself away.
Though the story is dark in places, overall it left me with the impression of an irreverent escapade. There are shenanigans aplenty and witty banter, all of which serve to keep some lightness in the story despite the lurking shadows that circle around the history of the house and its many residents. I thoroughly enjoyed this read both as entertainment and as an accomplished example of the writing craft. The backwards structure of the novel is fascinating, and Makkai does an admirable job of keeping the story moving without losing her readers in the dust. I’m already looking forward to reading her other books, especially her debut, The Borrower. Love the premise of that one.
My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:
- 12 Tips for Writing Good Book Reviews
- 21 brilliant things only Margaret Atwood could say – and she did by Shreya Ila Anasuya
- Business Musings: Serious Writer Voice by @KristineRusch
- 5 Ways to Start Your Story by @monicamclark
- The Beauty of Writing — What I Wish All Writers Knew by @v_carnevale
- 10 Short Story Ideas by @joebunting
- James Baldwin’s Advice on Writing by Maria Popova
- One Weird Trick That Makes a Novel Addictive by Catherine Nichols
- 7 Unexpected Reasons You’re Not Living Up to Your Potential by @JenGresham
- Google’s Wild New Book Venture: A Bookstore of Smartphone-Based Books That Cannot Be Printed
- Too Late to Start Writing? by @KeithCronin
- What I’ve Learned From 28 Brilliant Creators by @wheniblink
- You Are Not What You Write by @wdbk
- 3 Ways to Find the Writing Voice You Never Really Lost by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
- 5 Valuable Writing Tips from Madeleine L’Engle
- Five Signs Your Story Is Sexist via @mythcreants
- Imagining Your Future Projects Is Holding You Back by @jccabel
Sundry Links and Articles:
I have long been an ardent fan of Ursula K. Le Guin. Her Earthsea trilogy was one of the first serious fantasy series that captured my imagination. I have vivid memories of creating my own runes and spells based on the magic of Earthsea. More recently, I have been enjoying Le Guin’s outspoken voice on her blog.
You can imagine my delight, then, to discover that a team of documentary film makers are making a feature movie called Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin. From the project’s website:
Viewers will accompany Le Guin on an intimate journey of self-discovery as she comes into her own as a major feminist author, inspiring generations of women and other marginalized writers along the way. To tell this story, the film reaches into the past as well as the future – to a childhood steeped in the myths and stories of disappeared Native peoples she heard as the daughter of prominent 19th century anthropologist Alfred Kroeber.
Le Guin’s story allows audiences to reflect on science fiction’s unique role in American culture, as a conduit for our utopian dreams, apocalyptic fears, and tempestuous romance with technology. Le Guin, by elevating science fiction from mind candy to serious speculation, has given permission to younger mainstream writers like Michael Chabon, Zadie Smith, and Jonathan Lethem to explore fantastic elements in their work.
The project exceeded its Kickstarter goal in only a matter of days, and I can’t wait to see this film.
Finally, a quote for the week:
Here’s to caring about words. Happy reading & happy writing. See you on the other side!
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.