The Half Year Book Report (#5)

Here are the books I finished from January 1 through June 30 2019. Of particular note is that I just discovered Curtis Sittenfeld and clearly enjoy her work, since I read two of her books this period and am in the middle of a third. And then got to meet her at LitFest, along with some other wonderful authors Helen McDonald, Erika L Sanchez, Melissa Febos, and Ross Gay. Curtis was as lovely as her writing is. But…the highlight of LitFest was meeting my favorite, favorite, favorite essayist Sloane Crosley! She came right up to my table as I was enjoying the pre-panel discussion catering and we chatted for a few minutes. If I lived in NYC, I’d want to be her best friend. She’s just so cool!  Continue reading →

Say What? Edition 9: A Motley Collection

I’ve been keeping lists of weird things about English for a while. And by keeping lists, I mean that I write down one thing I think of and tell myself I should look for similar irregularities and fill the list so I can blog about the topic, but I never do. So, I’m cleaning out my blog drafts and putting all these oddball pronunciations and meanings and other bits of language that caught my interest into a single post. If you think of any examples that fit into these categories, I’d love to hear what they are!

Continue reading →

The Novel: Which Critiques (Don’t) Matter

I now have a complete manuscript of my debut novel, a contemporary young adult story. Complete, of course, means that I still have another full edit to do over the summer…and then probably another one after I start to query in the fall. My first task is to incorporate the remaining comments I have from the Lighthouse critique group I’ve been going to since October. This group has been invaluable in pointing out legitimate plot holes, helping me understand reader reactions, and getting me unstuck when I couldn’t seem to move forward. I never would have finished without my peers and especially without the facilitator. In addition, some of us branched off into our own writing group, which helps me continue to find motivation through dedicated writing time and having people to bounce ideas off whose opinions I value and who know my story.  Continue reading →

Turning 40: Why I Write

At three days away from turning 40 years old, I haven’t been published, and yet I continue to write and call myself a writer. I’m not published because I haven’t ever submitted anywhere or queried an agent. Sure, I’d like to be published some day, but that’s never really been the point for me. The effort required to submit to agents and magazines and to market my work seems like it would sap all the fun out of writing. For me, the point is the process itself. I write because I have to. I have to explore ideas on paper and play with words and get creative. I’ve loved the written word since I was very, very little. Even though writing is an intrinsic part of me and a huge piece of my identity, it hasn’t always come easy. I took a nearly two-decade hiatus from creative writing, something I regret now even though I know I can only look forward. I did this exercise—a history of me as a writer in ten chapters—as part of a class I took and thought this would be a great time to share it on my blog.  Continue reading →

The Novel: To Query or Not to Query

As this entry posts to my blog, I am wrapping up my third year at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers retreat. This is a wonderful annual event held at a Franciscan Retreat Center in Colorado Springs. The center is in the perfect location, easily accessible from Boulder but far enough that I really do feel like I am getting away. The mountains are all around, making a quick hike or trail run easy to fit in between stints of writing in one of the quiet, cozy nooks of the residence hall. It is remarkably inexpensive but the rooms are so comfortable and they feed us three delicious meals a day.

Continue reading →

The End of Year Book Report (#5)

July through December 2018

 

Title: Still Alice

Author: Lisa Genova

Date Finished: 7/6 

Finished: Yes

Format: Kindle

Ranking Out of 10: 5 

Notes: I did not enjoy the style of writing. It felt pedantic, like a parable. The story was good but it was too obviously written to inform readers about a condition rather than letting the readers enjoy a novel and make conclusions for themselves. Continue reading →

The Novel: Half A Novel And Proud of It

I’m back from an intense month of novel writing.

How did I do on the distraction front?

  • I only logged in to Facebook three times, and each time was for a specific purpose, such as updating my notification settings to stop getting text messages from Facebook about photos my friends were posting. They were trying hard to lure me back in after I was off the site for a few weeks, but I resisted. It actually wasn’t that hard to stay off Facebook…until the last few days. Then I started fiending. I’m so embarrassed to admit that.
  • I was on Twitter about every four days, scrolling aimlessly. This is more than usual, so clearly I was using it as a substitute for Facebook. However, with Twitter, I tend to scroll through my feed for 5-10 minutes, get bored, and shut it down. With Facebook, I can waste hours clicking on links, looking at groups, looking at friends’ profiles, etc. Twitter is a good substitute, for sure.
  • I scrolled through my blog reading list about once a week. I started writing this post on November 25. But as soon as I started writing it, I wanted to (and did) start working on other posts as well. And I started working on a short story. I basically didn’t touch my novel the whole last week of November. But it felt great to be writing something different.
  • I deleted one of my dating profiles and mostly used the other dating apps only to respond to people who messaged me. I wasted my own time actively scrolling through profiles once a week, so briefly each time. I went out on four dates.
  • I cancelled my Netflix account. This wasn’t in the plan, but I realized that I hadn’t used it in almost two months, so why bother keeping it? It has often been a distraction in the past. The temptation to binge can be strong.

Continue reading →

NaNoWriMo

Today is November 1st and that means National Novel Writing Month. I signed up two years ago and didn’t get very far, but this year, I’m all in. I went to two Boulder region kick off parties, I have eleven write-ins on my calendar, and for the past eight weeks, I’ve started attending the Friday 500 and my biweekly Saturday writers group again. Plus, I’m simultaneously signed up for a novel workshop, which started two weeks ago, so I have to submit pages for that for critique. I am firmly in writing mode and have no excuses to not have a draft completed on November 30.

NaNoWriMo Continue reading →

Say What? Edition 8: When Native Speakers Sound Like They Aren’t

My roommate my first year in Russia told me that English was an easy language to start speaking and make yourself decently understood but near impossible to master because of all the idioms, nuance, unexpected pronunciations, and multiple ways of saying everything. No matter how long you speak it, you’re always going to encounter something a native speaker says or writes that baffles you. Russian is the opposite. It has a dense grammar with lots of irregularities that tongue ties you for a long, long time after beginning, but once you’ve got it, you just fly into proficiency. Today, I thought I’d focus on a few of the intricacies of English grammar that I’ve come across recently that I think wouldn’t be so obvious to fluent, non-native speakers or to native speakers, for that matter.

Continue reading →

Say What? Edition 7: More Than Words

No, this post is not an ode to that old Extreme song, although it’s still a great one! The post is a little bit about “code switching,” I started hearing about everywhere a few years ago. Code switching refers to the verbal portion of the many personas we all have. The words we choose, the way we say them, the tone of voice, affected accents, and sometimes even the language itself. It was weird to me that suddenly code switching was a phenomena because it’s something I’ve recognized myself doing, often consciously, forever. More on that later in a minute. But this post is also about much more than code switching. It’s about all sorts of language choices and language differences that help us relate in specific ways to the world around us and reveal a lot about us.

********************

Haven’t we all been adapting our speech since we were children? I know I have. I spoke one way at home with my family and one way at home with my friends. I spoke another way with my teachers and even another with people at church. Later, I had various sets of speaking mannerisms for work relationships: waitress talk, teacher talk, tour guide talk, boss talk. In my “performance” jobs (teacher, tour guide) my code switch was so strong that I felt quite self-conscious of people who knew other the other versions of myself hearing me in that role. While the degree to which I code switch now is less—for example, I’m now an adult who lives on her own, so I don’t feel I need to bend to my parents’ rules of acceptable speech nearly as much any more when I’m around them—I’m more conscious of it when I do engage in it. For example, sometimes I realize my speech is too casual with my manager orI feel like I’m crossing some line, so I’ll stop using certain words and will hold back expressing certain ideas.  Continue reading →