Just Read!

Just Read!

  • Carry a magazine with you at all times.
  • Keep a book in your car.
  • Tuck a paperback into your messenger bag.
  • Load a library onto your Kindle – and fire it up instead of checking your phone!

Too much screen time!

Just Read!

I’m not the only one checking my cell phone like a nervous tic.

I’m trying this technique myself, because I find myself checking my phone like a nervous tic, and if I see a new email or a new headline, I fall into the black hole of cyberspace. Poof! My time to read evaporates, and it’s time for bed.

Instead of reading print on a page in a chair by the fire before retiring, I pollute myself with screen time. Even if there’s no new message from a friend or no new headline to upset me, the light itself is known to disrupt sleep. In my case, I’m also cranky for having squandered the time I’d planned to read, and for not reading.

Advice to writers: “Just read!”

As writers, we’re told, “Just read!” as a way to learn craft, study style, examine structure, and gather facts. Reading other people’s stories helps us tell our own, whether our stories are invented, factual, remembered, retold, or some combination thereof.

Technology changes, but our human need for stories does not.

Humans are a narrative species. We used to tell stories around a fire; then we heard them in the marketplace and in the cathedrals. Eventually, we learned to write and read. Drama, film and TV tell stories through acting. These days, stories are lost in email and stunted in social media. Our time to read at length grows short.

I love to read; I have to plan time to do it.

As a writer, I’m a glutton for words, most of which I get from print on a page. So I’m starting a new campaign to increase my reading time. I’m going to keep prose on hand wherever I go, so when I have a moment of “downtime,” I can “Just Read!” instead of reflexively checking my phone.

How do you make time to read?

Deborah Lee LuskinDeborah Lee Luskin reads and writes in southern Vermont, where Into the Wilderness, her critically acclaimed story of love in middle age, is set.

Poetry – A Hidden Gem for Inspiration and Reflection

 

What do you think of if I say the words iambic pentameter? Did you just wince? It’s okay. I’m not judging. That term tends to bring up unwanted memories of sitting in a stuffy classroom listening to some professor and wondering why anyone needs to know the difference between a sonnet and a villanelle.

We ought to purposely have more poetry in our lives. A poem can be like a tiny island rising up from the ocean of our everyday hustle and bustle. It welcomes us onto its shores as we get out of our wave-tossed boats to rest on the soft sand under a whispering palm tree and just breathe for a moment.

It’s such a shame that reading poetry is something most people do only under duress. I understand how this happens. We’re force fed certain kinds of poetry when we’re in school, and the formality of it tends to turn us off. It’s confusing in its forms, rigid in its rules, and full of archaic language that we can hardly understand. It’s downright intimidating.

Or, is it?

The funny thing about poetry is that it sneaks into our lives every day, without us even noticing. Every song lyric is a poem—from Bob Dylan to Imagine Dragons to Tupac (especially Tupac). When you sing along in the car, you’re singing poetry.

Almost every children’s picture book is a poem. Some rhyme. Some don’t. But each is a sort of poem.

And if you’re on Facebook or Instagram, I bet you’ve come across your share of poems in disguise. Sometimes, it’s an excerpt from an actual poem. Sometimes, it’s a poetic caption written to accompany an image or a quote from someone like Ram Dass. Sometimes it’s a line of poetry that has made its way into our day-to-day conversational language: To err is human; to forgive, divine (Alexander Pope), How do I love thee? Let me count the ways (Elizabeth Barrett Browning), Do not go gentle into that good night (Dylan Thomas), The lady doth protest too much, methinks (Shakespeare), and so on.

The brevity of most poems makes them the perfect form for our busy lives. It’s not easy to make time to read a novel, but a poem can be savored in less time than it takes you to make a cup of coffee.

Don’t let their small size fool you, though. Poetry is a powerfully condensed form of expression. A poem is the boiled down essence of a thought or an experience. It attacks all our senses and sensibilities at once, overwhelming us with an immersion that is made more intense by a lack of logic or a linear flow.

Once a poem catches you, there’s no telling what will happen. You may be flung back in time or feel that time has stopped still around you. You may laugh out loud or weep for no reason you can explain. Poetry is experience and emotion distilled into an elixir of insight and transformation. It is a catalyst for creating epiphanies and new perspectives.

And there is a poem for everyone. From Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein to Tennyson and Maya Angelou, the world of poetry contains every possible style of human expression and touches on every imaginable topic, theme, and story. And despite this wealth of diversity, there are, you may discover, more similarities between Emily Dickinson and today’s slam poets than you might expect. In the end, they are all tapping into the same wellspring.

It’s easy to give yourself the gift of poetry. There are many email subscriptions for daily poems from places like The Poetry Foundation and Poets.org. You can even find poem-a-day playlists on Spotify. Or, you can go analog and pick up a poetry anthology to leave by the coffeemaker. Flip it open to a random page and see where it takes you. You may be surprised at what worlds await.

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Jamie Lee Wallace I am a freelance content writer, columnist, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. For more from me, check out the archives for the  Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy posts. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared as a column in the Ipswich Chronicle, and subsequently on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Photo Credit: schössling Flickr via Compfight cc

Penguin Random House – Season of Stories

Making time to read can be challenge. I rarely have the pleasure of long, uninterrupted hours of recreational reading. Usually, I’m able to sneak in a chapter here and there. More often than not, I’m consuming novels as audio books that I listen to while I’m driving, taking a shower, preparing dinner, or running the vacuum. (And – yes – listening to audio books counts as reading.)

In addition to novels, I also love to find bite-sized stories that I can enjoy in the even smaller pockets of reading time that crop up in my day. When my daughter was younger, I often used the time waiting in the pick-up line at school to catch up on a little reading. These days, I get my “micro” reads in while I’m boiling water for a cup of tea or waiting to pick up my lunch order.

I’ve already shared some fun “quickie” reading apps, including tapas and wattpad. I’ve also recently discovered a budding appreciation for comics by experimenting with an Amazon-related site and app called Comixology. But, sometimes I crave a more traditional (but still bite-sized) kind of literature. That’s where I think Season of Stories might just fit the bill.

Here’s how the publisher describes their email event:

For a limited time in the fall and winter of 2016, we emailed eleven fiction tales directly to readers, all written in the first person. Readers could dive into a great story when a quick escape from daily stress was needed. Our mission was to make your inbox a better place with great stories.

Every week, a different Penguin Random House author took over the newsletter, including award-winning and bestselling authors like Anthony Marra, Elizabeth McCracken, and Adam Johnson.

The stories were told serially, a piece of a story was sent out each day until the full narrative wrapped up just in time for the weekend. The stories are free and will only be in the emails (you won’t be able to get them anywhere else!).

This storytelling event has ended but a special one-week long edition has begun.  Sign up below to start receiving the latest story and to stay informed as we ramp up for another full Season of Stories:

 

I don’t know about you, but I could definitely use some good news in my inbox; and what better than some quality literature? I’ve already signed up, and invite you to do the same. Can’t wait for the first installment!

 

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Favorite Springtime Reads and Writing Exercises

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:  Although Old Man Winter seems loathe to loosen his grip on those of us living in the northeast of the United States, Spring IS coming. In fact, the official first day of Spring was earlier this week on Monday, March 20th.

So – with hope in our hearts, sunshine on our backs, and the persistent and triumphant chirps and whistles of feathered friends in our ears – we’d like to share with you our favorite springtime stories, novels, poems, and writing rituals. (And then, of course, we’d love to hear yours!)

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: My favorite spring poems are by A.A. Milne. I read them as a child, and when my daughter was a little girl we would listen to them over and over on a cassette tape in the car. (Yes – my old car still had a cassette player.) There are so many to choose from that I could never pick a single favorite: Daffodowndilly, Water Lilies, Spring Morning. I love them all.

I never thought about having favorite Spring reads. Winter reads seem much easier to come by. Spring seems to call for something light and humorous, even frivolous. I’m not one for romances or so-called “chick lit,” but I could do with something witty and fresh. I recently picked up an autographed copy of Lost Among the Birds by Neil Hayward. That might be just the thing.

As for a Spring writing ritual … I’m going to go with just getting outside and letting Mother Nature inspire me. I get out plenty in Winter (and am duly inspired by snow and ice and the amazing adaptive abilities of nature’s denizens), but Spring invites a closer inspection of the world around us. Spring opens up our minds as it opens up the earth and plants. I look forward to that.

P.S. ~ If you’re looking for some poetic inspiration of your own, I found this handy collection of Spring poems on the Poetry Foundation site. Enjoy!

Deborah Lee Luskin: I get so much inspiration from tilling the garden, from planting vegetables, and from weeding, which I find to be deeply contemplative and tremendously satisfying.

 

A Poem a Day

Jane Yolen is one of the most prolific and lauded children’s writers of our time. She has written more than three hundred books including many picture books and middle grade novels in a variety of genres and worlds of her own imagining. Her awards are many including (from her website), “the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, the Golden Kite Award, the Jewish Book Award, the World Fantasy Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award among many others.” She is also a generous supporter of other writers, often speaking at conferences, teaching, and maintaining a lengthy For Writers page on her own website.

My favorite Yolen book is one that seems to be out of print called The Wild HuntIt’s one of my favorite winter reads and a story that I come back to again and again, and with each reading discover something new.

I recently discovered another small treasure from this woman of letters, stories, and fairy tales – an email project that she’s been running for several years now, in which she sends subscribers a poem each and every day. The poems range widely in style and subject, but I love that they arrive without fail in my inbox each day – a delicious morsel of art to brighten my day.

It’s easy to subscribe, just email Yolen at janeyolen (at) aol (dot) com, and she’ll add you to her list.

Yolen is also a fabulous follow on Twitter at @JaneYolen. She’s very engaged with her followers and just a lot of fun.

So, that’s my treat for the day. 🙂

I hope you enjoy her site and Twitter feed and maybe sign up for her poem a day.

Happy reading (and writing)!

 

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Wrap-up of Best Books of 2016 Lists

This collection won’t be anything close to complete, but I hope it will at least offer up a few selections that pique your interest. So, peruse and enjoy. And, if you find other lists that should be added to the wrap-up, please feel free to leave links in the comments. (My list is skewed to my own preference for speculative fiction, so I have definitely overlooked other popular genres like thriller, mystery, and romance; so – please! – let me know your favorite picks!)

Here’s to making your To-read List even longer!!

Kirkus 2016 Best Fiction Books

Kirkus 2016 Best Fiction Books

Tor.com Reviewers' Choice: The Best Books of 2016

Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2016

Guardian: Best SciFi and Fantasy Books of 2016

Guardian: Best SciFi and Fantasy Books of 2016

The Guardian: Best Fiction of 2016

The Guardian: Best Fiction of 2016

Washington Post: Best science fiction and fantasy of 2016

Washington Post: Best science fiction and fantasy of 2016

NPR: The 10 Best Books Of 2016 Faced Tough Topics Head On

NPR: The 10 Best Books Of 2016 Faced Tough Topics Head On

NPR's Book Concierge - Best Books of 2016

NPR’s Book Concierge – Best Books of 2016

 

New York Times: 10 Best Books of 2016

New York Times: 10 Best Books of 2016

Boston Public Library: Top Ten Books Borrowed in 2016

Boston Public Library: Top Ten Books Borrowed in 2016

Goodreads Choice Awards 2016

Goodreads Choice Awards 2016

Happy reading!!

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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How Do You Manage Your Personal Library?

too-many-books-too-little-time-to-readNo matter how many times I downsize my library, it still seems I have an abundance of books to read.

Not that I mind at all, of course, but space is an issue.

I spent a good chunk of Sunday sorting through all my books, yet again, because I really needed to finish unpacking (moved at the end of Aug and still had boxes upon boxes).

There were boxes of books in my new placet and also in a large outdoor storage unit that I’ve downsized to a small indoor one. It’s crazy.

If I still had my home, my library would be at least 2 of the 3 bedrooms, with piles of books in every other room, too. As it is now, I share space with a roommate, so have very limited shelf space.

In sorting, I discovered a few categories of books:

  • To read and review
  • To read for pure pleasure
  • To read for personal development
  • To keep for reference / research
  • To keep because they are signed
  • To keep because I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements as editor
  • To keep because I want to read them again “some day”

I think it’s too many categories and still too many books, but I feel I’ve trimmed my personal library down to the minimum. Many books need to remain boxed and put away – but at least I know what’s in each box now!

I have my car’s trunk full (literally) of books to donate. As long as I know someone might read them, I don’t feel too bad, but, still, it’s difficult to part with books that have been on my shelves and TBR (to be read) pile for years. Do you have this problem too?

I used to keep an inventory of titles I had in an Excel sheet, but that got overwhelming. I’m on Shelfari and Goodreads, and even with those easy ways to track my ‘library’ it’s still overwhelming.

If you have limited space, how do you manage your personal library? Have you moved to an e-reader to reduce paper books? Do you have books packed away? Do you keep an inventory? 

I’m curious to know how you manage your personal library. Please share.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.