Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links Feb 20

A golden afternoon by the sea with an almost-full moon watching over us.

A golden afternoon by the sea with an almost-full moon watching over us.

After a vicious cold snap that had New Englanders living in mortal fear of burst pipes (my condolences to those who had to endure that particular experience), the weather around these parts has been unseasonably mild. Yesterday, my beau and I enjoyed a long walk through the dunes. We had hoped to see some snowy owls, but – alas! – if those feathered regents were visiting, they stayed out of sight.

Today looks like another beauty, so we’re heading out for another walk soon. But, before we do, here’s this week’s collection of books and links for your browsing pleasure. I hope you have a lovely and relaxing Sunday, wherever you are. And, I hope your day includes both reading and writing.

Enjoy!

_jamie sig

 

 


Books I’m Reading:

book steinamI feel like I ought to apologize to someone for not finishing Gloria Steinem’s memoir, My Life on the Road … maybe Emma Watson. You see, I borrowed the book from my local library only after Ms. Watson selected it as the first read for her Goodreads-based book club, Our Shared Shelf.  Though I didn’t quite finish the memoir, it was less because I didn’t like the book (I did), and more because there were other reads that were calling me away.

It was enlightening and humbling to read Steinem’s first-hand accounts of the birth of the women’s movement. Though so many of us still struggle with issues of equality, including gender equality, there is much we take for granted.  Though I knew who Steinem was, I knew little about the role she played in bringing women’s issues and feminism to the forefront of politics. Her anecdotes about key events are a fascinating study of how a movement is born and grows. If ever I am writing a story about a revolution, this is a book I would return to as a real-life reference.

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book galapagosThis week I also took a walk down memory lane with an old favorite, Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut. Though I still have my battered paperback copy, I chose this time to listen to the audio version via Audible.

Vonnegut has always held a special place in my heart. I first discovered him when I was quite young, a teen. My first exposure to Vonnegut’s work was probably Slaughterhouse Five, prerequisite reading for most high school English classes; but from there I flew through a half dozen others. I loved Vonnegut’s sharp wit and the taste of rebellion and revolution in his words.

What’s amazing to me is how relevant his work remains. I’m not sure this is something to be happy about, but it’s certain a reason to celebrate the man’s keen sense of observation and insight. Though it was originally published thirty-one years ago, Galápagos remains a current commentary on the state of human kind. It’s not a pretty picture.

From a craft perspective, I am very intrigued by the fact that almost this entire novel is told in straight-up narration. There is very little dialog – just a first-person, omniscient POV voiceover. I don’t know that I’ve ever come across another novel that employs this kind of story presentation. The book also does not seem to conform (at least at first glance) to your typical story structure; but that’s something I will investigate further. Either way, Galápagos is certainly unique in its format and style.


My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

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Sundry Links and Articles:

Dr. Gresham, I presume ;)

Dr. Gresham, I presume😉

Yesterday’s weekend edition, 3 Steps to Your Perfect Writing Life, was partially inspired by a conversation I had earlier in the week with Jen Gresham. Jen coaches people through “career reinvention” over at her site, Everyday Bright.  Her blog posts are encouraging, insightful, and full of ways to cut through the clutter of whatever career baggage you might be dragging around your life. While the work I do doesn’t necessarily fall into the category of a traditional “career,” I still find a great deal of value in Jen’s work.

The reason I mention all this is because she’s hosting a free webinar this coming Tuesday. I was going through my inbox this morning (something I should have done after I wrote this post, but I couldn’t resist the siren call of my email), and there was an invite to join her at 6PM EST on Tuesday the 23rd for a webinar/conversation about her 4 Secrets to Finding Money + Happiness at Work. I’m going to try and make it. Maybe I’ll see you there!


 

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin angelous muse

I hope the rest of your weekend is restful and inspired. Wishing you good reads and good writing and a fresh start to the new week. Enjoy! 
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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 Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Sunday Shareworthy Feb 14 – Reading and Writing Links and Sundry

 

winter riverBaby, 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:

book 100-yr houseEarlier 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.

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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

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Sundry Links and Articles:

worlds of leguinI 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.

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Finally, a quote for the week:

pin leguin a writer is

Here’s to caring about words. Happy reading & happy writing. See you on the other side!

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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 Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Sunday 6 February – Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links and Sundry

snowy treeNew England showed its true colors this week. After a Thursday that felt like spring (complete with near sixty-degree temperatures and March-like zephyrs), Friday dawned to a cold rain that transformed into heavy wet snow as the mercury fell. Parents who had scoffed at seemingly premature school closings were soon grateful that they didn’t have to venture out into what became a pretty messy afternoon commute.

Yesterday, after the storm had passed, my beau and I enjoyed a long walk in a nearby state park. Every bough in the forest was coated with a layer of snow, giving the place a clichéd faerieland look that was charming as hell. And when we reached the open spaces, the pristine surface of the snow sparkled like some crafty goddess has scattered a miniature universe of stars across the meadow. It was quite breathtaking.

And now it’s Sunday – hopefully a day for kicking back and letting your mind meander aimlessly. Here is this week’s batch of freshly curated links to my favorite blog posts, reads, and sundry other digital locations. Grab a mug of tea and a biscuit and enjoy. And if you have any links of your own to share, please feel free to drop them in the comments!


 Books I’m Reading:

book weatheringI have a very long list of books on my To Read list. Many of them live on Goodreads, but a few stragglers are in my wish list on Amazon, a Books folder in Evernote, and a photo album on my phone. (I have a habit of surreptitiously snapping photos of books I find in bookstores.) I know I’ll never get to all the books on my list, so sometimes it’s hard to pick which one to read next. Usually I browse my lists to see if any titles jump out at me. It’s more exciting, however, when one of my to-be-read books jumps out at me in Real Life. That’s just what happened with Lucy Wood’s novel, Weathering.

I first encountered Wood’s writing in her collection of short stories, Diving Belles. This anthology haunting stories weaves elements of Cornish folklore into everyday life, making the magical seem like a concrete part of our world – a force to be accepted. In Weathering, Wood tells a seemingly simple story of returning home:

(From the book jacket):

Pearl doesn’t know how she’s ended up in the river–the same messy, cacophonous river in the same rain-soaked valley she’d been stuck in for years. But here her spirit swirls and stays . . . Ada, Pearl’s daughter, doesn’t know how she’s ended up back in the house she left thirteen years ago–with no heating apart from a fire she can’t light, no way of getting around apart from an old car she’s scared to drive, and no company apart from her own young daughter, Pepper. She wants to clear out Pearl’s house so she can leave and not look back. Pepper has grown used to following her restless mother from place to place, but this house, with its faded photographs, its boxes of cameras and its stuffed jackdaw, is something new. Fascinated by the scattering of people she meets, by the river that unfurls through the valley, and by the strange old woman who sits on the bank with her feet in the cold, coppery water, Pepper doesn’t know why anyone would ever want to leave.

Wood’s work is like a series of old photographs pieced together into a subtle story that resonates in your head long after you’ve turned the last page. Her descriptions evoke a powerful sense of place and mood, almost visceral; but they are never just stage dressing. As I read, I sometimes thought to myself, “Is this going anywhere?” I only realized after I finished the book that the nagging sense of being stuck was part of the spell Wood wove. Her story captivated not only intellectually, but also emotionally – pulling at me like the current of a spring river that refuses to be ignored as it flexes its watery muscles and murmurs an endless incantation.

I will be looking more closely at the structure of this story and Wood’s masterful use of language. I look forward to sharing some of what I learn in a later post.

My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

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Sundry Links and Articles:

visualize narrative structure

Understanding the connections and relationships between your characters is an important element of your story, but never before have I seen such a fascinating “mapping” as the Visualization of Narrative Structure created by Natalia Bilenko and Asako Miyakawa who asked the question, “Can books be summarized through their emotional trajectory and character relationships? Can a graphic representation of a book provide an at-a-glance impression and an invitation to explore the details?”

The project analyzes three books – The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. The interactive graphs created for each book allow you to explore the emotional trajectory of each character in depth: “Hovering over the sentence bars reveals the text of the original sentences. The emotional path of each character through the book can be traced by clicking on the character names in the graph. This highlights the corresponding sentences in the sentiment plot where that character appears. Click on the links below to see each visualization.”

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comma queen

We could all use a grammar refresher once in a while. (It can’t hurt, right?) Our own Lisa Jackson does a fabulous series called Grammar-ease, but if you’d like to supplement her posts with some video tutelage I recommend the Comma Queen Series by The New Yorker. If you’re, like me, a staunch supporter of the Oxford comma, you might like to start with the episode on The Importance of Serial Commas. Or, you can browse the whole collection of videos.

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin writers dont choose

Thanks, as always, for sharing part of your weekend with me and for giving me a space to share all my writerly geekiness. Have a GREAT week. Happy writing, happy reading, and happy exploring!
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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 Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Short and Sweet Advice for Writers: Read!! (Here’s Why)

pin confuscius readIt’s not like anyone ever has to twist my arm to get me to read. In fact, left to my own devices, I’d probably spend at least a few hours each day with my nose in a book. However, Real Life doesn’t always easily accommodate large blocks of reading time. There is almost always something more pressing that needs doing – something that seems more important – and so reading can fall off the radar.

But, reading is critical for writers. Mandatory. Non-negotiable.

You’ve heard the advice a million times: If you want to write, read. It makes sense, you suppose; but have you ever wondered why it makes sense – why reading is such an important part of becoming a writer?

When you read, it’s like taking an immersion class in the language of story and literature. And like any immersion class, the more you expose yourself to that language, the better you understand it and the more fluent you become.

By reading other writers, you develop an instinctive sense of how story works. You begin to see the universal patterns in story structure and notice how different authors use language in different ways. The more time you spend reading, the easier it becomes to recognize the various craft elements for what they are. Even more importantly, you start to realize when these elements are working, and when they are not.

You can hardly ask for a better education.

This is why it’s so important for you, as a writer, to read – because it’s your only opportunity to learn by example, and examples are powerful teaching tools. Reading shows, instead of telling. Stories don’t have to explain themselves. They don’t preach or dictate. They simply present themselves to you, and leave it to you to figure things out.

Some will tell you to be careful what you read – to only read Good Writing, or to never/always read books from the genre you write. I don’t think there need to be any hard and fast rules about reading. I’ve learned a ton about what not to do by reading subpar novels. And I’m constantly learning from the masters in my preferred genre and cross-pollinating ideas from authors who write in other genres.

I’m not sure you can ever go wrong reading. Just do it. Read. Read as much and as often as you can. Immerse yourself in story. It will make you a better writer.
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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. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition – a long-form post on writing and the writing life – and/orintroduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Sunday 31 Jan – Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links and Sundry

So, we finally busted out of Mercury retrograde this week. I don’t know about you, but I definitely felt a creative shift. (If you’re not sure what that’s all about, check out this post where I explain a little about Mercury retrograde.) We’re also having a bit of a mid-winter warm up around here. Though we New Englanders know better than to let our guard down, it’s nice to be able to get outside without quite so many layers on. The scent of spring is on the air and it’s got my imagination stirring.

To help boost your creativity and inspire your imagination, here are this week’s links and picks for all things writerly (and some that are on the fringe, but still worth exploring).

Enjoy!

Jamie


Books I’m Reading:

book magicians landLast week I finished the final book in Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy, The Magician’s Land, and now I’m having fiction world withdrawal. Often described as Harry Potter for a (much) more mature audience, the Magician’s books are, in my humble opinion, very worthy reads. Yes, they are action-packed fantasy stories that feature sex, violence, and loads of swearing; but there’s more to them than that.

Grossman’s magical world is unique in the way it intersects with ours. As a friend (and fellow Magicians fan) pointed out, Grossman does an excellent job of anchoring his fantasy construct in our modern world without sacrificing wonder or charm. The story is also, at its heart, not about magic, but about becoming yourself. In the same way that J.K. Rowling’s books are really about friendship, the Magicians novels are well-rendered coming of age stories.

I won’t risk any spoilers about this final book in the triology; I’ll just say that I was very impressed with how Grossman wrapped things up – brought them full circle without resorting to 100% neatly tied bows. I’ll also say that despite the heartache readers have to endure throughout the story, the series ends on a hopeful (if unexpected) note. I found that refreshing.

Coincidentally, just as I was devouring the final chapters, SyFy premiered its series based on Grossman’s books. I’ve watched the first two episodes (how could I not?), and I’m still undecided about whether I love it or not. My loyalty to the books is influencing my judgments of the adaptation, which takes a fair number of liberties with Grossman’s world and story. (They even changed the name of one of the primary characters for no apparent reason.) It may be too soon for me to fully enjoy the show. We’ll see.

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book old countryBecause I’m still hungover from my time at Grossman’s Brakebills Prepatory College of Magic and the world of Fillory, I’m not yet ready to dive into a new novel. Instead, I picked up a novella from my own collection, something I read a while back, but couldn’t quite remember. The Old Country by Mordicai Gerstein is a classic-style fairytale full of talking animals, faerie folk, peasants, and royalty.

I enjoyed being able to recognize many fairytale tropes – the old granny telling a tale to her inquisitive granddaughter, the journey into the forest, the protagonist doing the one thing she was warned against, transformation, the creation of a team of unlikely allies … it was all there; but there were also enough twists (including a surprise ending) that I never felt like I knew what was going to happen next.

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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:


Sundry Links and Articles:

Podcast Series: The Elemental Genre

writing excuses season 11I know I gush rather a lot about the Writing Excuses podcast, but I just can’t help myself. I’m already looking forward to a re-listen of Season 10 which walked listeners through the story creation process from idea to first draft to revision and beyond. This year’s season – Season 11 – is all about the “Elemental Genre.” Here’s how they introduce the idea of the Elemental Genre in the season intro:

The word “genre” has a lot of weight to it. Arguments about whether a particular work is, or is not, part of a given genre are long, and tedious. Season Eleven will not be engaging in those arguments. We’re giving all that a wide miss by adding an adjective, and defining a new term: Elemental Genre.

During 2016 we are going to explore what we write, why we write, and how we write in much the same way as previous seasons have, but our guidepost this year will be this concept of Elemental Genres. In January we’ll stay high-level and firm up the framework. Starting in February we’ll drill down on each of the Elemental Genres, and explore the writing process.

I’m really looking forward to this!

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Free Online Course: Literature and Mental Health – Reading for Wellbeing

future learnThis free online course is offered by the University of Warwick and begins tomorrow – February 1st. It’s part of the FutureLearn program that offers “a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.”

Literature and Mental Health – Reading for Wellbeing is taught by Professor Jonathan Bate and Dr. Paula Byrne. Here’s a little bit about the course from the FutureLearn site:

The great 18th century writer Dr Samuel Johnson, who suffered from severe bouts of depression, said “the only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life or better to endure it.”

This free online course will explore how enjoying literature can help us to endure life.

Taking Johnson’s phrase as a starting point, the course will consider how poems, plays and novels can help us understand and cope with times of deep emotional strain. The reading load will be flexible, and you will have the opportunity to exchange ideas and feelings via the online discussions with other learners.

I’m looking forward to exploring these ideas further. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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Finally, a quote for the week:

pin you can king

Thanks for sharing part of your weekend with me.  Hope you enjoy exploring the links. Happy reading! Happy writing! Happy New Week! 
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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 Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Sunday Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links and Sundry

It’s the dead of winter here. The threat of snow looms on the horizon of each new day and hovers around the cold moon at night. The wind has been working itself into a frenzy, sending empty trash barrels rattling down the street and causing tree boughs to sigh and moan in a melancholy chorus that’s punctuated by the cries our resident crows.

It’s perfect reading weather.

This past week I enjoyed two books – one fiction and one non-fiction – as well as my usual helping of fantastic essays and articles across the blogosphere. All the links and details are below. I hope you enjoy perusing this week’s selection of shareworthy bits and pieces.

Happy reading & happy writing!

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book the curiosityI scored a free ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) of The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan a couple years ago when a Newburyport bookstore was purging its inventory. (I’ve never been one to pass up free books!) It sat on my shelves all this time until it was suddenly the right time for me to read it. (Isn’t it funny how you know when it’s time to read a certain book?)

The back of the ARC billed the book as “Michael Crichton meets The Time Traveler’s Wife.” I’m not terribly familiar with either point of comparison, but I know enough to understand the intended meaning – it’s a page-turner with emotions – and I agree. The premise, as featured on the publisher’s website, goes like this:

Dr. Kate Philo and her scientific exploration team make a breathtaking discovery in the Arctic: the body of a man buried deep in the ice. Remarkably, the frozen man is brought back to the lab and successfully reanimated. As the man begins to regain his memories, the team learns that he was—is—a judge, Jeremiah Rice, and the last thing he remembers is falling overboard into the Arctic Ocean in 1906.

Thrown together by circumstances beyond their control, Kate and Jeremiah grow closer. But the clock is ticking and Jeremiah’s new life is slipping away…and all too soon, Kate must decide how far she is willing to go to protect the man she has come to love.

Interesting, right? The story is told in alternating points of view: Dr. Kate, a slightly seedy journalist covering the story, the egomaniac funding the project, and – eventually – the frozen man himself. I was impressed with Kiernan’s ability to shift so effectively between the four voices which, between them, covered both genders, multiple age groups, very different personalities, and a couple different eras. I also found it so interesting that Kiernan chose to use the second person for the sections narrated by the egomaniac. That’s not something you see everyday.

The story was fast paced but well written. I kind of knew where it was heading, but even so I stayed engaged and interested, right up to the end.


 

book dillard writing lifeI’ve heard Annie Dillard‘s name many times, but until now I’d never read her work. I picked up The Writing Life, a collection of short essays on the experience of writing, from my local library on a whim. I found it by turns inspiring and infuriating. I gobbled it up in only a couple sittings. (It’s short.) Parts of it made me whisper “Yes!” under my breath, other parts made me want to give up writing altogether (either because Dillard’s prose was so beautiful or because she makes being a writer sound like a journey through all seven circles of hell), other parts made me cringe as I caught a whiff of the elitist literati and pretentious “artiste.” I finished the book feeling confused and conflicted – drawn in, and yet repelled. I already want to pick it up and reread certain sections, but it’s not a book that feels like an old friend.

That said, it’s definitely worth a read. Whether  you can relate to Dillard’s experience of writing in full or only in part, it will make you feel something and it will make you think to ask yourself questions that hadn’t occurred to you before. And, I must admit that Dillard’s own description of the book on her site as “… an embarrassing nonfiction narrative fixed somewhat and republished by Harper Perennial …” endeared me to the author.


And here are my favorite blog posts and articles from this week:

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And here’s  a little inspiration: 

pin write anything cs lewis

Happy reading. Happy writing. Happy staying warm and cozy for those of you who are also in winter’s thrall. 
.15 Inspiring Writing Podcasts to Subscribe to Right Now
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. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition – a long-form post on writing and the writing life – and/or introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Weekend Edition, Part Two – Massive Catch Up on Writing and Reading Picks

Hello, fellow writers. Happy Sunday!

Regular readers of the Weekend Edition may have noticed that my last few Saturday posts have been missing their second half – the overview of what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been writing, great blog posts from around the web, and other miscellaneous “shareworthy” items. Today, I bring you a massive catch up on all the linky goodness that I’ve been collecting since before the holidays.

Ready? Let’s do this.

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BOOKS I’VE READ RECENTLY:

bella and booksThe Christmas holiday afforded me the luxury of several long afternoons of quiet solitude, so – of course – I took the opportunity to indulge in a good, old-fashioned reading binge. I felt like a kid – curled happily on my couch with my cats, a mug of tea, and a pile of library books. What could be better?

 

.book king on writingI began my armchair journey with a book that has been on my To Read list for a very long time: Stephen King’s memoir on the craft, On Writing. I know, I know – what took me so long? I have no good excuse. Although I have huge respect for King, I’ve never been a fan of his books because – quite frankly – they are too scary for me. (I tried reading It when I was a teen, and wound up with such terrible nightmares that I not only had to stop reading, I had to remove the book from the house.)

Now that I’ve finally read On Writing, I recommend it wholeheartedly. King’s advice is excellent, and his tone is a perfect mix of pragmatism and encouragement. He manages to be the voice of experience and reason without being at all pretentious or pedantic. In fact, the entire book is so damn readable that I found myself staying up quite late into the evening, reading.

I do still take some issue with King’s opinion on plotting. He calls himself a “situational” writer – someone who takes a character, puts him or her in a situation, and then stands back to see what happens next. While I agree that the “what it?” approach is an excellent way to start a story, I can’t quite bring myself to abandon the idea of story structure in favor of discovery writing. Though King may be able to craft stories without the aid of an outline or other planning device, I think this is mostly due to his innate sense of story.

Despite our differences on that point, I not only found this book extremely valuable, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it – cover-to-cover.


 

book byatt storiesNext up was a collection of stories by A.S. Byatt called Little Black Book of Stories. This was my first time reading Byatt, who is probably best known for her novel, Possession. The spine of the book caught my eye as I was wandering through the fiction section of my library – a gothic-style cover with gold leaf embellishments and a rather mysterious air about it.

The stories contained within sparkle darkly with images and ideas that have stayed with me. Though each tale is unique from the others, together they weave a sense that there is more to the world than meets the eye. They manage to create this feeling without compromising the feeling that Byatt’s characters are as real as you or me. And, of course, the language is beautiful. I will definitely be seeking out more of this author’s work.


 

book thirteen orphansAfter such a serious and dark read, I switched gears to something lighter. Thirteen Orphans by Jane Lindskold is another book that called to me from the library shelves. I had to stand on tip-toe to reach it, and was immediately intrigued the minute I read Charles deLint’s glowing cover blurb.

From the Goodreads synopsis: “When that world’s Emperor was overthrown, the Thirteen Orphans fled to our earth and hid their magic system in the game of mah-jong. Each Orphan represents an animal from the Chinese Zodiac. Brenda’s father is the Rat. And her polished, former child-star aunt, Pearl—that eminent lady is the Tiger.

Only a handful of Orphans remain to stand against their enemies. The Tiger, the Rooster, the Dog, the Rabbit . . . and Brenda Morris. Not quite the Rat, but not quite human either.”

I was nearly two-thirds of the way through this book before similarities in writing style and plot made me realize that I’d read another book by Lindskold, Changer. I liked Thirteen Orphans better than Changer. I found it easier to identify with the Orphans characters and their plight, and I also found the entire team of “good guys” quite likable. There’s a good chance that I’ll eventually read the other books in this series. I’d like to see Aunt Pearl kick some more ass.


 

book valour vanityMy last holiday read was Valour and Vanity, the fourth novel in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories series. This was the first time I’ve read one of Kowal’s novels, though I’ve been a huge fan of her for ages because of her work on the best-ever writing podcast, Writing Excuses.

In the promotional blurbs, Valour and Vanity is described as “a magical adventure that might result if Jane Austen wrote Ocean’s Eleven.” The setting is a historically accurate Regency setting except for one, small detail – magic is real, in the form of “glamour.” Valour and Vanity is a heist novel that involves deception on many levels and two teams of conspirators who play out their game in the city of Murano, Italy. This was an entertaining and well-written read that was perfect for a quiet winter afternoon.


 

book magician kingWith the holiday break behind us, I have less time to devote to long reading sessions, so I’m re-reading (via audio book) the second book in Lev Grossman’s magicians trilogy. I had forgotten just how much I love these book. I love the way Grossman combines magic and other worlds with a modern sensibility that’s full of sharp wit, cynicism, and a delightful sense of sarcasm.

I’m re-reading this one in preparation for reading the final installment of the trilogy, The Magician’s Land. I borrowed it from the library earlier this week, and am just itching to crack it open.

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BLOG POSTS WORTH SHARING

While being bumped out of my usual routine temporarily handicapped my blog consumption, I think I’m pretty much all caught up now. Thank goodness many bloggers slowed things down a bit over the holidays, or I’d probably still be digging my way out!

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OTHER SHAREWORTHY ITEMS

NYPL images

Awesome New Image Collection 

A Mother Jones post tipped me off on the fact that the New York Public Library recently made 180,000 digital images available for free. This is great news for bloggers who are always looking for interesting and unique images that don’t smack of stock photography.

You can access the images via the NYPL’s website, and here is a post about their public domain collections. These images are available, “No permission required. No restrictions on use.” Wheeeee!!!


 

Sound Apps to Keep You Focused on Your Writing

A couple years ago I discovered a nifty little app called Coffitivity, an elegantly simple, scientifically inspired, and oh-so-fun online app that streams a soundtrack of ambient coffee shop sounds through your computer speakers. If you like, you can mix the Coffitivity soundtrack with the music stream of your choice. I use the app quite frequently, mostly when my daughter is home and work requires that I  block out distracting noises.

I recently came across a similar app called brain.fm. According to their website, brain.fm “converts auditory neuroscience into personalized brainwave training programs” that help you focus, relax, and sleep. Unlike Coffitivity, there isn’t a long-term free version of the app. You can, however, do a free trial that allows you something like seven listening sessions to try out the different sounds. I have only tried one of the “focus” sounds, but the concept of soundscapes scientifically optimized to induce particular mind states is pretty fascinating. Worth a try.


 

The 10th Annual Short Story Challenge

short story challenge

I’ve thought about participating in the Short Story Challenge before, but have never managed to take the plunge. Maybe, though, 2016 is the year. Per the website, this is how it works:

The 10th Annual Short Story Challenge is a creative writing competition open to writers around the world.  There are 3 rounds of competition.  In the 1st Round (January 22-30, 2016), writers are placed randomly in heats and are assigned a genre, subject, and character assignment.  Writers have 8 days to write an original story no longer than 2,500 words.  The judges choose a top 5 in each heat to advance to the 2nd Round (March 17-20, 2016) where writers receive new assignments, only this time they have just 3 days to write a 2,000 word (maximum) short story.  Judges choose finalists from the 2nd Round to advance to the 3rd and final round of the competition where writers are challenged to write a 1,500 word (maximum) story in just 24 hours (April 29-30, 2016).  A panel of judges review the final round stories and overall winners are selected.  Sound like fun?  Join the competition below and get ready for January 22nd!

Sound like fun? The deadline to register is January 21st, and the entry fee is $45. Even if you don’t enter, you can read winning stories from past competitions on the website.

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Finally, a great quote from Mr. Alan Rickman, another wonderful artist whom we lost this past week. For millions around the world, he will always be Professor Snape, but his body of work and his depth of compassion for humanity extends far beyond that single role. He understood the importance of art and of stories.

pin alan rickman

Thanks for sharing part of your weekend with me. Happy reading, happy writing, happy exploring and creating. 

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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. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition (a fun post and great community of commenters on the writing life, random musings, writing tips, and good reads), or introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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