April Book Haul

It’s the last day of April! Hooray! Here’s a look at the books I bought this month.

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So from top to bottom they are:

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley- Shockingly, I’ve never read this book, so I picked it up at my local bookstore. Also, why doesn’t anyone name their kid Aldous anymore?

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne- I’m thinking of teaching this during my Holocaust unit, but I’m not sure. I need to read it first!

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood- I love love LOVE Margaret Atwood. This is the second in her MaddAdam trilogy and I’m excited to read it since I enjoyed the first one, Oryx and Crake.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra- It was 20% off at Barnes and Noble and it’s supposed to be good and set in present day Russia. SOLD.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple- A gift from my lovely friend, Kristina. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book so I’m looking forward to reading it.

The Changeling by Kenzaburo Oe- Another gift from Stu. It’s by a Japanese author and he brought it back for me from his recent trip to Japan because he said it reminds him of the synopsis I gave him of my book.

What We Walk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander- Another book I picked up hoping to teach it next year. It was on sale at the Boulder Book Store.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith- I found a used copy at reduced price and in good condition at the Tattered Cover (my favorite bookstore). I want to read it before the sequel comes out in June!

I also got a really great coffee table book at the BBS on sale as well, but I’m saving that for another post. 🙂 I’ll be posting a wrap up soon and lots more. As always, you can follow me on Twitter or Goodreads. In the meantime, let me know in comments or messages what you bought this month. Until next week, I’m out!

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An Open Letter to the Characters I Cut from my Novel

(photo from missional.ca)

Dear Eric and Alice,

It’s not you. It’s me.

Actually, no. That’s a lie. It is you. You’re not working in my story. Then again, that also means it is me because I’m the author of the story. You two sprung, not fully formed, from my imagination. So really I have no one to blame but myself. (What else is new?)

When I first conceived the idea for this story, I wanted three rotating narrators because I’m overly-ambitious. I love making grand plans! I thought it would be a truly unique take. Then I started to write scenes from Eric’s POV with his wife Alice and it was just not working. The scenes were deflated. There was no energy, no drama, no humor and liveliness. Everything I wanted to say I said with the other two narrators and I struggled to find purpose for you two.

Basically, you’re just not meant for this story.

I saw an article about Breaking Bad creator and show runner Vince Gilligan on Twitter the other day. I consider that show to be one of the best ever, and it’s a true feat of storytelling. Naturally, I clicked on it and read it quickly. Gilligan had this to say about story telling:

“Keep the characters and the plot simple.”

Such concise, yet life-changing writing advice! I was simply trying to do too much, to make the situation too complicated, and I got tangled in a messy web of plot and other nonsense that I forgot the basics of the story.

So why make things harder for all three of us?

This is my final goodbye. I will miss both of you since you both had real potential, but I will not miss the headache and mess that came along with fighting to keep you two in the story. I wanted to hold on to that original idea for as long as possible. What can I say, sometimes I am hopeful and foolish. It’s just the way I am.

You may appear elsewhere in this story. You may appear in another. You may spend the rest of eternity in the digital clutter that is my external hard drive. No matter where you end up, just remember it’s better this way.

Peace and blessings,

Emily

(gif via thecrashcourse.tumblr.com)

The Fast Food Fast

Just like everyone else I know, I’m pretty busy these days. I’m trying to juggle lots, have a social life, and make sure that I have the necessary hours of sleep. It’s a lot! I find myself getting into bad habits when I’m busy, the biggest of them being eating out and fast food.

I could blog at length about food, weight, and health, but for now I will spare all of you. It’s no secret though that I am not a girl who loves to cook. It’s not that I can’t do it or that I hate food (in fact, it’s the opposite, I LOVE food), it’s mostly that I do not enjoy it like some of my friends do. This leads me to being lazy and indulging in fast food.

Now it’s not necessarily drive-thru food I get. It’s mostly stuff that I walk in and get, from Noodles or Qdoba or Chick-fil-A or Larkburger (I’m hungry just listing these places) and while it serves as a nice treat every now and then, I’ve come to rely on it. After working long days that test my patience, the last thing I want to do is come home and spend the last of my patience on cooking, when I should be saving it for dealing with my noisy downstairs neighbors and my writing.

This has lead me to go on what I’m going to call a Fast Food Fast, or really, a fast from eating out. I know, I’m about to be THAT girl who is a party pooper, but the fast is not going to be forever. It’s mostly just to get myself out of the habit. Trust me, I do not want to turn into one of those people who is vegan, sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free because that basically means I can eat berries, carrots, and tree bark and that’s no fun. Also, I love going out to eat. It’s literally one of my favorite things to do. I may not cook, but I appreciate good cooking.

I leave for vacation on May 16th, so as of the 17th, my eating out ban will be lifted, because (like I said) I’m on vacation. But no fast food! Lisa, if you read this, NO DRIVE THRUS. We are packing food like an adorable old couple!

Until then, no spending my own money on eating out until the 17th. If someone wants to take me out, I will certainly not protest, but otherwise I am spending my hard earned coin on food I can get at the grocery store to make meals.

That’s right…all grocery store meals.

We’re about to be BFFs, King Soopers.

Now, part of me just wants to eat hummus, veggies, and chips for every meal (my favorite snack!), but I know that would not be a good idea. So I’m going to try and make meals that are healthy and I’m going to try not to be lazy. We’ll see how this goes.

There are three things that I plan on doing in hopes it will help me with the Fast Food Fast. Here they are:

1. Make lots of meals in advance, so when I’m tired I just have to warm my food up.
2. Take advantage of the emergency stash at my parents, because it’s FREE. Sometimes, when I forget my lunch or something, I just go out and buy a burrito because it’s easy. My parents, who live close to where I work have a stash of very healthy food at their house that I don’t have to pay for and is specifically for me. I should utilize this resource! Plus, I can watch cable TV there, too.
3. Eat a decent size breakfast so I don’t snack on cake at work. It’s so delicious, but it’s not good for me for a multitude of reasons.

Okay, there you have it! In an effort to save money and be healthier, this is what I’ve decided to do. I’ll let you know how it pans out. I have lots of planned posts coming up, so you’ll hear from me soon. Until then, I’m out!

A person, place, and thing that make my literary life better

I could technically spend all my time reading and writing, but for an extrovert, that would get real lonely real quick. I am obviously passionate about reading and writing and I love to share that passion with people (re: this blog). Of course, I also go out and seek other things to do with reading and writing to connect me to other people and enhance my literary life. In fact, if it wasn’t for this person, this place, or the thing (website) that I’m about to list, I would have never stumbled upon some wonderful books, some excellent writing tips, and much needed camaraderie.

Alright, on with the list!

Person

There are many, MANY undiscovered worlds and communities on the internet, and one I’ve recently come across is a thing known as BookTube. Holy cow, is there a lot going on there. BookTube consists of video bloggers posting videos all about books on YouTube. They talk about the books they’ve read, issues in their reading community, and share lots of stuff about their lives. It’s pretty overwhelming at times, but I do watch a few of them, mostly because I like seeing what’s going to be the next big thing.

The first Book Blogger I came across is booksandquills, or, Sanne (pronounced almost like the English word ‘sauna.’ She’s Dutch!). I am now a loyal viewer. She works for Hot Key Books in London and studied English translation in college, so her videos about being bilingual and reading in multiple languages are super interesting. She loves books, especially pretty books, and I’ve added many a graphic novel to my TBR or a beautiful classic edition because I saw it on her channel.

A lot of the bloggers are pretty erratic, excitable and generally loud. That’s fine for certain things, but I always find Sanne to be just plain pleasant when she’s speaking to you. She’s never rude or gloomy or snarky. When she doesn’t like a book, she’ll be perfectly honest why she didn’t, but she won’t hate on you if you did. If you’re going to go down the BookTube rabbit hole, I suggest starting with her.

Place

About a year ago, I started tossing around the idea of going to school to get my MA/MFA in Creative Writing. I even applied to places, but ultimately I ruled it out. My main reason for deciding not to was purely financial, but I still longed to have that classroom setting. I craved feedback and guidance from those smarter than me. So I simply Googled ‘creative writing classes in Denver’ and the very first result was the Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop.

The Lighthouse in in an old historic building in Denver, down in the Congress Park area off of Colfax and close to the Tattered Cover and East High School. They offer something I really needed—affordable classes and workshops. Through a workshop I met two people and we started our critique group. I’ve relied heavily on them ever since.

The Lighthouse also offers great programs. They host author visits and events such as Write-a-thons and Willfully Submit parties. My two favorite events at the Lighthouse happen once a year. The first is LitFest which takes place for three weeks in June and it’s bananas. It’s basically a lot of literary events; classes, workshops, readings, a book fair, business panels, and brown bag lunches. Whew! Last year was my first year participating and it was fun, even though I felt like I barely made a dent in the monstrous schedule.

Just a few months after LitFest we have the annual author visit. This year it was Jennifer Egan who wrote ‘Visit from the Goon Squad,’ a Pulitzer Prize-winning book that I actually enjoyed! The featured author comes for about two day and does a reading and Q&A session, and then hosts a ‘craft talk’ in which they basically teach a class. I loved Jennifer Egan’s craft talk. I wish I had recorded it so I could listen to it again!

Thing

This is going to be challenging, but I’m going to have to attempt to write something short on my love for the website Book Riot. In truth, I could write a Homerific epic on my love for this website, but I’ll refrain for now.

How do I explain this website? Well, it’s for people who love books. Like, REALLY love books. There’s at least one post every day having to deal with bookish news, literary lifestyles, or basically anything involving the reading life. They have great articles that detail things like new books or book deals, they have great roundups of links, lists, and something called Book Fetish which is a series about bookish stuff you can own. They conduct research on the reading life and they have a whole host of contributors from all different backgrounds.

Like all successful websites, Book Riot has spawned a podcast hosted by two of the higher-ups, Jeff O’Neil and Rebecca Schinsky. I feel like they’re my friends since I listen to them to and from work every Monday. Through the podcast I learned about the Quarterly Box, a subscription package that comes once a quarter. Of course, every package contains a book, but these books are special because they come with fun bonus material, almost like having cool extras on a DVD. They also include loads of fun bookish things like magnets and pencils. I’m currently drinking tea out of my Banned Books mug I received in my most recent box.

Another thing they have that I love is the ‘Read It First’ series. They’re cheap ebooks put together by the contributors that are basically a Godsend because they tell you where to start with certain authors. Everyone from Toni Morrison to Roald Dahl’s adult stories (I also did not know he wrote adult stories until this came out).

Phew! That’s enough gushing for now. Tell me, is there anything that makes your literary life better?

Photos courtesy of katiesbookblog.com, confluence-denver.org, and article.wn.com. 

The TBR Jar!

I don’t know if you guys know this yet, but I like to read books. I know right? brand new information_phoebe What’s more, is I also like to own books. I blame this on the fact that the two houses I grew up in—my grandparents in Cincinnati and my own parents—had pretty extensive libraries. I also blame my repeat viewings of Beauty and the Beast between the ages of 5-12.

This was the dream.

This, while endearing, is starting to become a little problematic, especially since I’ve been moving so much. I moved into my new apartment over a month ago and the only thing I still have to unpack are books. While I’ve read the majority of them, there is quite a pile of unread book. How did I solve this problem? By going on the internet and stealing someone’s idea, of course! Thanks to Little Book Owl, I created the TBR jar! For the uninitiated, TBR means To-Be Read. After asking my friend Kelley where I can buy mason jars (I know, it’s shameful that I didn’t know this before hand and I live in Colorado) I brought home a giant case from Target, wrote all my unread books on a purple sticky notes and put them in the jar. Then I added a blue ribbon, for, you know, flair.

I have 37 pieces of flair.

My current goal is to draw from the jar twice a month and read one of those books. It’s all in an effort to get that TBR pile down to a respectable (and less agonizing to haul) level. I’ve tried other methods, like a book buying ban, etc, but those just make me want to rebel and buy books! So, here’s another semi-creative attempt.

Without further ado, here’s my jar!

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I’ll be back later this week with more posts! Until then, I’m out.