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Notebooks & Books On Writing

Apparently I’ve been missing out, not knowing about this book. It seems that many high school English classes use it, but mine definitely did not. The book is “Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within” by Natalie Goldberg.

I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m already loving it. There are so many prompts and ideas and I’m finding it all to be quite inspiring. I read a chapter or two and I have to stop because there’s something that I want to write down before I forget!

I’ve also decided to follow in Natalie Goldberg’s footsteps and start using just plain, single subject, spiral-bound notebooks for my writing practice. I’m a little bit obsessed with office supplies, notebooks included, so I find myself constantly buying new ones, different ones. I’ll buy a large 300 page notebook and then before I’ve even filled 5 pages, I buy a pretty composition book style notebook. And another, and then a fun journal that I liked because it opened flat. Before I know it, I have 6 or 7 empty notebooks lying around, only 25% filled in total! It’s like I’m spending more time worrying about the notebooks and which one to write in than I am actually writing. And how silly is that?!

I figure that if I take the guesswork out of it and give myself that “routine” of using regular single subject notebooks, it will enable me to be more productive.

Basically, I should know by now that I work best with a routine set in place. At the very least, organized chaos. :-)

Bibliophile? Literophile? Perhaps.

This Christmas, literary gifts abounded!

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Typewriter, from the boyfriend.

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Stamp, from the parents.

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Book bag and “Pemberly” (Pride & Prejudice) candle, from the best friend.


Color me happy. :)

I was going to get a manual typewriter, but since I’ve never worked with a typewriter before, and I know myself (aka: I know my short-temper) I figured I should get used to an automatic one before going up to a manual. I could see myself having a freakout of annoyance from constantly hitting the return. Or “spazzing” as I like to call it.

My cat is quite perplexed by the whirring sound it makes when it is on and essentially terrified of the harsh clicking of the keys and the return. She’s not sure what to make of it!

At any rate, I am quite pleased with the gifts. Also, I read 35 books in 2015 (read 15 in 2014) and I’m reaching for 50 this year. Books, books, more books! All the books!

Speaking of, I’m super behind on my BookRiot “All the Books” podcasts… check it out if you like hearing about new books that might be interesting!

 

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Little Christmas Moments

I am getting a typewriter for Christmas! Thanks to the thoughtful boyfriend who knows I’ve wanted one for quite some time. :D

At some point, I will take it to a typewriter repair shop and have them paint it pink for me, rather than blue. Because I am admittedly a bit obsessed with the color pink. It is a bright, fun, happy color–judge me if you’d like; I don’t care. HaHa!

I also have a slight obsession with Christmas. I’m sure largely due to my many happy memories of Christmas with my family as a kid. I am incredibly fortunate to have had the generally happy childhood that I did. We were by no means rolling in money, but we certainly didn’t live in poverty either. And what was more important than the actual gifts we would get was the overall feeling of Christmas–the decorations, the smell of the pine tree in the living room, the traditions that lived on every year (and still to this day).

My brother and I hiding candy canes and smaller ornaments deep in the branches of the tree, then celebrating when we would find each other’s stashed items. Mom reading us the pop-up “Twas the Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve and giving us our one Christmas Eve present which was always new pajamas.

The two of us (once we got older) would stay up, one of us sneaking across the hall into the other’s room, and we would try to spy as Mom wrapped up the final gifts. Then Christmas morning, my brother and I getting up and trying to wake up Mom & Dad at the crack of dawn. They made us wait a little while usually, but we at least got to go dig through our stockings while they roused themselves from bed and made a pot of coffee.

Mom would read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible before we could start tearing into our presents, and after we were finished opening everything my brother and I would spend the day playing with new items, calling our cousins and friends to see what they got, and we typically enjoyed a relaxing day at home together. Just watching t.v. and hanging out, sometimes convincing our parents to let us go to our cousins’ or allow them to come over to our house.

I thoroughly love those memories. :-) Nothing particularly Earth-shattering would ever happen… I remember some of the gifts specifically but for the most part I just remember all of those little moments.

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An Encouraging Rejection

I have discussed previously how as writers we are often our own worst critics. There is a very real insecurity where our work is concerned, yet at the same time we obviously believe that our story is worth telling or we wouldn’t have written it. We are overly confident in the fact that we think our voice is special or should be heard, but there is always that voice saying, “Nope, nobody cares! Nobody wants to hear your story! Your writing is terrible and not special at all!”

At least, that is the case for me personally. Of course it won’t be the same for everyone, but I’ve heard an alarming number of other writers express the same thing.

Since I started sending out query letters to agents, my confidence has definitely taken some hits. It has been something of an uphill battle to keep believing in my own future success. I frequently remind myself that so many amazing writers were rejected dozens of times before finally getting that, “yes.” J.K. Rowling in particular was rejected something like 75 times, and she ended up writing one of the most successful, well-received book series ever!

Overall though, the rejection letters I have received have honestly been so polite and diplomatic that they haven’t been too difficult to swallow. Last week I received probably the most uplifting one yet. The agent stated, “I found your story to be very strong, and it drew me in right away. You have talent, but unfortunately, I didn’t fall completely in love with it. […] I do want you to know that it was very hard for me to pass on this project, and I’m certain that if it hasn’t already found a home, it will soon.”

How can I be that upset about such a “rejection”? :-) Of course I don’t require validation from others where my writing is concerned–even without it I would continue to write, because it is what I love to do and it fulfills my soul in a very unique way–but god it still feels great to read those words!

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Book Hoarding

I recently traveled to New York (you can read about it here if you’d like!) and have to say that I’m glad to be settled back at home. It always takes me a few days to get reacquainted with my routine when I return from traveling. For some reason it leaves me a bit discombobulated. :-)

Yesterday I read an article about how to weed through an overflowing book collection, and I’m thinking I may need to utilize the tips in the article soon. My book collection is constantly growing, and I do my best to donate old books that I either have never read or don’t really want to read again. Yet still, it grows. And I have boxes in my storage unit full of books as well. Oh, and I’m fairly certain my mother has boxes of my childhood books at my parents’ house in Michigan, too. Gah!

I’m pretty good about getting rid of things I no longer use. Particularly over the last couple of years. I would love to be more minimalistic not only for space saving reasons, but just to lessen my attachment to material objects.

I’ve started using up lotions and hair products before buying more (my girl Jenna Marbles pointed out the goo-hoarding that many women succumb to!). That has been going pretty well. But I still manage to accumulate more via gifts, etc.

Probably every 3-6 months I’ll do a quick run-through of my closet to see if there is anything I haven’t worn that I don’t anticipate wearing again soon. I use the hanger direction method–when I buy a new item I hang the hanger facing the opposite direction from the rest. Once I wear it, I flip it around. So anything that is still flipped the opposite way after 6 months to a year (seasonal items taken into account) gets donated. Unless it’s a special occasion item!

But this is incredibly difficult for me where books are concerned. If it’s something I’ve had for nearly a year or more than a year and I haven’t read it and find that I’m not terribly interested in reading it, I can easily donate it. But nearly every book I actually read, I want to keep! Then I have my ever-growing list of favorites. I feel a profound attachment to books that I can’t quite put into words. I imagine any other bibliophile out there understands!

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Characters Telling The Story (& a Short Excerpt)

I mentioned previously that I’m currently reading “Bird by Bird”, and the section I recently read was regarding letting your story kind of fall into place, rather than pre-planing the entire thing. The author was driving home the point that this is the most organic way to write a story, the way that will result in the most compelling writing and interesting characters.

Happily enough, that is exactly how my book unfolded. I began with the first sentence, not having ANY idea of what it meant or where it would go. But as soon as I started writing everything just fell into place. I could see my main character–her house, her family, and the street she lived on. I listened and she told me her story, bit by bit. :-) I legitimately didn’t know where it was going to end up until I was a solid 3/4 of the way through it.

When that happens, it feels like magic. I’ve written plenty of other stories and started other books that I gave up on after 10 pages. In those cases I was most likely trying to force the story, versus letting it just flow from my pen or keyboard. But this completed (save for some revisions I’m still working on!) book feels so special and personal to me, because I was able to get into that zone. I was able to listen to the characters and let them push the story along. I was able to get to the point where I write something and when re-reading think to myself, “No, she wouldn’t say it like that.” Or, “He wouldn’t react that way. It’s not his personality.”

It has been awhile since I put in an excerpt from said book, so I’ll put a short one in this post. This is the scene where the MC (Thana) meets Phoebe–her perky, happy coworker who ends up knowing far more than she lets on…


That day I had to work after school. Things were going well at the library. The peace and quiet was good for me. Nobody there knew that people were dropping around me like flies. Patrons came and went, smiling politely and occasionally making small talk. Nobody bothered me with questions or looked at me with dread. That day I came in to find a tiny blonde girl waiting at the punch-in clock, positively beaming at me.

“Hi! My name is Phoebe. Kristen hired me yesterday and told me to be here today to train! You must be Thana.”

“Uh, yeah. Kristen didn’t say anything to me about this…” Not that I was surprised. Kristen often left me with added responsibilities when she didn’t feel like handling her managerial position.

“She left a note by your desk, I think. That’s what she said she would do, anyway. My my, your eyes are certainly green, aren’t they? Quite striking and most interesting.” She smiled at me like she knew a secret.

“Oh, yeah, thank you.” I mumbled, feeling off-kilter from her whole demeanor. Her teeth still beamed at me perfectly. Her citrus yellow sun dress fit her torso like a glove, showing off her petite curvature; hugging her slender waist, falling effortlessly over her shapely hips to a flowing, girlish skirt. Her white, strappy shoes looked like they had a three-inch heel, and circled around her ankle daintily where the buckle shined nearly as much as she did.

Suddenly I felt quite frumpy in my slightly baggy, comfy jeans and plain grey crew-neck tee.

The note from Kristen was just where Phoebe said it would be. Thana—train the new girl. Thanks. –Kristen. Very helpful indeed.


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Writing Tip: Get An Awesome Support System

I’m so grateful to have some pretty awesome people in my life who show me immense support. A lot of people (friends, acquaintances, etc.) don’t know that I have written a book and am working on getting it all revised and getting an agent. As soon as they find out they are SO kind and uplifting!

From a very young age I was fortunate to have people in my life who supported my little-kid dream of being an author some day. Of course my parents were always supportive, and I had numerous elementary school teachers who pushed me to write and encouraged me with their compliments and feedback. I think pretty much every year I had a teacher who would really show an interest and encourage me to continue writing and working toward my goal. So many kids don’t have that, so I’m INCREDIBLY thankful to have been surrounded by such awesome people.

Recently a friend who found out, through casual conversation, that I wrote a book expressed a genuine desire to read what I currently have, and from her talking about it I’ve had other people–close friends, old college classmates–pipe up and request to read it as well. It’s just so touching to me! Even if they don’t love it, the fact that they are interested in it enough to at least think it could be good just blows me away. :-)

I suppose it’s part of being a writer; this desire to tell the world a story, while simultaneously worrying that nobody will want to read our story. I recently saw an online article talking about how Ernest Hemingway wrote in journals and personal letters about his own insecurities and doubts regarding his writing. Ernest Hemingway!

I still haven’t reached my goal–no agent as of yet, no successfully published book–but I haven’t stopped working toward it, nor will I. Having so much support around me certainly makes the long, difficult, tiresome journey a bit easier. I would say to anyone with a dream of writing, to not be afraid to share it with others. You’ll be surprised with how much other people believe in you!