Monday, July 17, 2017

Reads for Writers: Updates to My Summer Reading List

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          Hectic week at the magazine. Deadline was moved from the 18th back to the 16th so I’ve had a lot less time to write. For this post, I’ve decided to continue with my Summer Reading List as some readers may be looking for something to read.

          I did read Hunger by Roxane Gay which is a painful memoir, but well-written. Books about trauma are hard to recommend because readers with similar traumas will have totally different and valid takes on it.

          I also completed On Wonder and Other Survival Skills. The essays didn’t all appeal to me so a mixed review. I’m glad I read it, but not a high recommendation.

          I’m partway through Arthur & Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes by Michael Sims which is an informative read. Fans will enjoy it. I’ve already added two of the author’s other books to my reading list: The Adventures of Henry Thoreau: A Young Man’s Unlikely Journey to Walden Pond and Charlotte’s Web: E. B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic.

          I also read chapter one in Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I learned a great deal about what happened in the first five minutes of the Big Bang. I like the book so far.

          A friend recommended Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series set in Canada. I like to read books in order so Still Life is in my reading pile now.

          Another friend loaned me My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul. Bob is a journal where Paul lists every book she’s read. More than a list, she shares her thoughts and parts of her life. Looks good. I’ll let you know.

Word count for the week of July 9-15 was 8,089. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Reading is Writing Vicariously

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I have filled six monthly notebooks successfully so far this year. June was in doubt as I fell far behind when visitors were here, but wrote 7,471 words on 21 pages on June 30 to meet the deadline. It wasn’t fun, but I didn’t fail.

          However, my life is a bit out of balance right now. I’m meeting all my writing deadlines—monthly notebooks, magazine assignments, and Facebook essays—although sometimes rushed, but I am not reading enough. I have completed two of the twelve books on my summer reading list. I’ve started another, but I’m a fast reader. I used to read four books a week. Now I’m lucky if it’s two.

          I have been working on a big home improvement project while also entertaining visiting friends and relatives. That does lessen the amount of time I have to read, but I guess I’m too tired to disappear into books and use my imagination to flesh out the characters. I find myself watching more movies and TV shows. This is not a terrible thing except that reading uses different parts of the brain and inspires me to write.

I need to allot more time to reading because it is writing vicariously. The words are there—the rhythm; the style; the themes; the facts or the imagination. They are not my words, but, if the writing is good, I appreciate and enjoy the words. They make me think. They invite me to meld with them. They change me. And, best of all, they inspire me.

I just read a piece where the writer (I can’t find name) noted that words were her toys and she loved playing with them. That sums it up nicely. Words, whether I read them or write them, are fun to play with—and I need to schedule a reading and a writing playdate every day.

My word count for the week of July 2-8 was 10,072.  

Monday, July 3, 2017

Reads for Writers--2017 Summer Reading List

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I have lots of books waiting to be read, but I’ve chosen the next twelve I want to complete this summer.

          I started reading Wonder and Other Survival Skills: A Selection of Essays from Orion Magazine on July 1st. I love to wonder, as most writers do, and I think it is a survival skill so the title really appealed to me. Among the contributors, I have read Diane Ackerman and Rick Bass before—in fact, I own most of each of their books—but I have never heard of Michael P. Branch whose essay “A Ladder to The Pleiades” I chose randomly to read first. It was a delight. I will never look at a night sky without thinking of his three-year-old daughter and the life lessons she taught him.

          I am not sure in which order I will read the rest of these books.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson ties into the essay I mentioned above, but I chose it long before that because of the author and subject. I did the same with Bang! The Complete History of the Universe by Brian May (guitarist in Queen) Patrick Moore, and Chris Lintott.

As I mentioned above, I read Diane Ackerman so her book The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us is on the list.

Since I am a writer, I like to read books about writers as well as books that help me improve my writing including: Arthur & Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes by Michael Sims; Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, and Screen by Robert McKee; and the memoir The Dead Ladies Project: Exiles, Expats, and Ex-Countries by Jessa Crispin.

Also on the list is Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay. I saw her speak and read some of her work on Book TV on C-SPAN. She is an extraordinary writer.

In the fiction category, I have chosen Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan; Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin; and A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass. All of them tie into books and/or authors. 
My final choice is Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World by Jane Hirshfield. I also started reading this book. It is so profound and beautifully written that I recommend it to all writers. This book will be a future Masterclass blog post.

I hope you enjoy your summer reading list as much as I’m going to enjoy mine.

My word count for the week of June 25-July 1 was 15,798.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Tough Writing Week

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I got smug. I’ll admit it. I’ve been writing at least 1,000 words a day in my monthly notebooks since March. Things were going well. No 40 pages to fill in the last week of the month like happened in January and February. I learned my lesson and wrote steadily—until this week.

          Company that had been scheduled to visit months ahead was arriving soon. Their dog can no longer make it up the stairs so we thought we’d change the rarely-used formal dinner room into a guest room as this particular dog isn’t the only company having issues with stairs.

          Mostly my stuff was stored in there so I cleaned it out, but, of course, it took longer than I thought. Once it was emptied out, it had to be scrubbed—walls, floors, cupboards. Then a bed, side tables, bureau, bookcase, and lamps had to be relocated along with some wall art.

          Then the workmen were scheduled. The old dining room needed a new outlet for the old TV in the new bedroom so called an electrician. Then the cable guy came the day after to hook up the cable box. Plumber came after that to fix a running toilet, but found a bigger problem under the sink. Pipes replaced with PVC the next day so it’s all good, but time consuming and distracting.

          Then I had to do the usual guest prep: make the bed, put out guest towels, fresh flowers, food shopping, cleaning the rest of the house while still keeping up with regular laundry and other chores and errands.

          It was also deadline week which left me little time to write. Obviously my notebook writing is the first thing to go when I’m in a time crunch. It doesn’t pay any bills, make company’s visit more comfortable, or keep our lives going.

          It does, however, keep me happy. Calm. I’m doing what I love while also jotting down thoughts, ideas, project steps, planning, venting, or crossing off To Do List items. My notebook is a place to check in with myself. Without it, I get cranky. So I squeezed in some writing by giving up sleep, not a choice I like to make. Too much stress during deadline week is too much for me to face without a pen in my hand, notebook pages to fill, and time to do so.

My word count for the week of June 18-24 was 6,937, but only 5,393 in my notebook.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Reads for Writers: The Writer's Life edited by Carol Edgarian and Tom Jenks

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          Writers need inspiration to create any good piece of work, but sometimes we need inspiration to continue writing at all.

The Writer’s Life: Intimate Thoughts on Work, Love, Inspiration, and Fame From the Diaries of the World’s Greatest Writers, edited by Carol Edgarian and Tom Jenks, is a book you can pick up and open randomly or choose a topic to hone in on what you need. Either way, inspiration is but a moment away.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Those who are willing to be vulnerable move among mysteries.
                                      --Theodore Roethke (p. 22)

The work is not a thing that we make, but an already-made thing              which we discover.
                                      --Thornton Wilder (p. 25)

Without magic, there is no art. Without art, there is no idealism. Without idealism, there is no integrity. Without integrity, there is nothing but production.
                                      --Raymond Chandler (p. 32)

Art is a microscope which the artist fixes on the secrets of his soul, and shows to people these secrets which are common to all.
                                      --Leo Tolstoy (p. 45)

I often think that the best writing is done after you’ve forgotten what you wanted to say, but end up putting something down anyway just as though it were the actual evidence of your original intention.
                                      --Clarence Major (p. 50)

Because one has written other books does not mean the next becomes any easier. Each book in fact becomes a tabula rasa; from book to book I seem to forget how to get characters in and out of rooms—a far more difficult task than the nonwriter might think.
                                      --John Gregory Dunne (p. 62)

Training to be a writer is a slow and continuous process, with time off for human behavior.
                                      --Marie-Elise (p. 67)

If thou art a writer, write as if thy time were short, for it is indeed short at the longest.
                                      --Henry David Thoreau (p. 76)

A poet told me that when her little boys were small she used to put her typewriter in the playpen and sit there and work while they tore up the house around her. Of course, she is an exceptionally energetic and resourceful person.
                                      --Ellen Gilchrist (p. 137)

          To write is an entertainment I put on for myself.
                                      --Jean Cocteau (p. 141)

Word count for the week of June 11-17 was 7,128.

Monday, June 12, 2017

I Love Living the Writer's Life

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I love the writer’s life.

          I love pre-writing. I love observing, imagining, reading, and connecting.

I love writing. I love picking up a pen and filling pages. I love sitting at my desk and hunting for thoughts and ideas then capturing them by keyboard.

          I love rewriting and refining my work. I love honing in on what I want to express—making it as clear as I can—however long that takes.

          I love making people think, laugh, or even get misty-eyed when they read my pieces. It means I’ve written well—and I love that most of all.

Word count for the week of June 4-10 was 8,993.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Tidying Up

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

If you cannot think of anything to write, try cleaning or organizing your desk or Writer's Crate. Doing something mindless like dusting or tossing old papers, gives your conscious mind something to focus on, but your subconscious is free to roam and come up with ideas.

          We’ve been spring cleaning the house as many friends and relatives will be visiting this summer. Recycling old papers and magazines, tossing junk, and boxing up donations is invigorating. A clean and organized space has new energy, but clean and organize to your own specifications.

          I’m a vertical organizer, i.e., a pile person, so my idea of organized may not match most people’s—and that’s okay. I’m the one who works in my office so it only has to meet my standard. While others may think I’m disorganized, I can find what I need within a moment or two.

          Like everyone else, I can be surprised at things I find in drawers and cupboards. Out of sight, out of mind so I keep important things in sight.

          I did have fun with the Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, method of clothes sorting. She recommends putting every article of your clothing on your bed then deciding quickly whether to keep, donate, or toss them. I thought it would be daunting, but it was the easiest way to do this. I filled one bag with ripped or stained clothes (mostly with ink as I love red and blue liquid ink Pilot V-Ball pens). Another bag was filled with clothes I rarely wore or new clothes I have never worn to be donated. The rest are in drawers or the closet. No piles anywhere except the laundry hamper—and I can live with that.

          All this cleaning and organizing gave me a visitor-ready house as well as ideas for this post, my Viewpoint column, and my Editor’s Facebook Thoughts. Always fun when a chore turns out to be a creative outlet!    

Word Count for the week of May 28-June 3 was 11,266.