Monday, February 29, 2016

Writing on Demand

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I started writing seriously when I began filling a notebook a month as recommended by Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones. This helped me learn to meet deadlines. Also, the more I wrote, the faster I wrote.

          When I interned at a monthly magazine, I received assignments with two week deadlines. I had to learn to manage my time between research, interviews, writing, and rewriting before turning them over to my editor.

After a few months, when articles fell through for other writers I would be assigned to write these or other articles on much shorter deadlines—sometimes a week, sometimes only two or three days. The pages of the magazines had to be filled. No exceptions. After I became the assistant editor, in one month I wrote seven articles published in two magazines.

If anyone had told me six months before this happened that I could write seven articles in two weeks, I would not have believed them. The reality is the more you write, the faster you write.

If you don’t have assignments, it can be hard to make yourself write which is why the filling a notebook a month deadline works so well. Once you are in the habit of writing, you can write on demand.

I’ve been blogging for three and a half years now. Every Monday I post a book review or an essay on writing, reading, or literary life.

I have the books I want to review on a list so it’s simple to pick one I’ve read and write about it. As I’ve mentioned previously, I underline, mark passages, and make notes in the margins while I read so it’s easy to pull a review together.

It’s much more difficult to come up with essay topics. Sometimes I look at my blog list by month and there are nothing but question marks where the titles of essay posts should be written. I often think I won’t come up with ideas in time.

Four days before my first February essay was due to be posted, I had no idea what I would write about in the three essays I needed for the month. Then I remembered Kristen Lamb writing about the importance of writing reviews for authors we love in her blog on January 4th so I wrote my Love Letter Book Reviews essay posted on 2/1/16. Then I saw the BBC America news report about Logos Hope—the Book Boat that visits ports around the world hosting floating book fairs for places with few books—a dream-come-true project for readers around the world and my second essay idea was formed.

I wrote both those pieces on the same day which gave me the idea for this essay. Since I write a lot, I can write on demand. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it does prepare you to write proficiently.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Reads for Writers: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald Provides a Masterclass

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

           As a reader, I always love finding books that appeal to me. As a writer, I am twice as pleased when the authors also provide masterclasses within their books.

          Masterclasses take place when performance artists and musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don’t generally have this option, but I have found some books to be masterclasses for characters, backstories, plots, settings, voice and/or creativity.

          The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald is a book about books. Two avid readers, Amy Harris from Broken Wheel, Iowa, and Sara Lindqvist from Sweden, become pen pals and trade novels.

In one letter, Amy writes: “Books or people, you ask…I’ve loved maybe a handful of people in my entire life, compared with tens or maybe even hundreds of books (and here I’m counting only those books I’ve really loved, the kind that make you happy just to look at them, that make you smile regardless of what else is happening in your life, that you always turn back to like an old friend and can remember exactly where you first “met” them—I’m sure you know just what I’m talking about). But that handful of people you love…they’re surely worth just as much as all those books.” (page 145) [A kindred spirit!]

Amy, a retired teacher who never left her home town, invites Sara to visit her when the bookstore she worked at for a decade, her first real job, goes out of business. Sara, who hasn’t much of a life outside of books, decides to travel to Iowa despite her parents’ misgivings. She lands in a small town much different than she imagined waiting over two hours for Amy to pick her up where the bus dropped her off. Luckily, she has a book to bury her nose in while time passes.

Sadly, her vacation adventure begins on the day of Amy’s funeral. However, friends and family described in her pen pals’ letters rally around Sara, a tourist in their midst, making her feel welcome. So welcome, she isn’t allowed to pay for anything.

Troubled by this, Sara looks around for a way to pay the town back. She decides to open a book shop filled with Amy’s collection and the ripples of transformation begin as books new to you are “…Unread adventures. Friends you haven’t met yet, hours of magical escapism awaiting you.” (page 303)

          While I enjoyed the story, I loved Sara recommending 56 real books to her customers as I’m always looking for recommendations. I loved her shelf titles like For Friday Nights and Lazy Sundays, Reliable Authors Guaranteed, and Happy Endings When You Need Them. With sections like those, I’d love to visit the Oak Tree Bookstore, too.  

I also loved Katarina Bivald’s outlook and the answers she gave in “A Conversation with the Author” section on pages 391-394 about her first novel. Helpful for future authors.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Logos Hope: The Book Boat

By Kate Phillips

          Logos Hope is a 12,000 ton ship filled with 5,000 books which has visited 150 countries and has had 44 million visitors since 2009. Its mission is to encourage people to read who do not have easy access to books.

Over 400 volunteers from all over the world live aboard. These volunteers host up to 800 visitors at a time during floating book fairs that last for weeks at each stop. There are also various literary events staged aboard.

This “Book Boat” looks like a regular bookstore on the inside. There are seemingly endless wooden shelves filled with beautiful volumes. Excited visitors walk the aisles looking for the ones that appeal to them. The books are given away to visitors and more are donated to local schools, libraries, and universities before moving on to the next port.

The short news report I watched on BBC America about this project was filmed at a three week stop in Tanzania. The public and government officials were thrilled the Logos Hope was there. It was wonderful to see children and adults who long to read provided with free books—some in English, some in local languages. How many lives will be changed thanks to this program?

While I donate to local libraries, I believe donations to this cause will make a bigger difference. I’ve never seen so many people excited about books since the Harry Potter release parties.

I admit I take access to books for granted. My parents are avid readers so we had books in our house when I was growing up. There are three libraries in town—a main one and two smaller ones in villages at each end of town, plus one 10 minutes away in the next town. There are three bookstores, two new and one used, within 25 minutes. Plus Amazon is always open for business.

Since it’s a rare day when I don’t read, I cannot bear to imagine a life without books. I’m thrilled this wonderful program exists for readers around the world in need of books.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Reads for Writers: November 9 by Colleen Hoover

From Kate’s Writing Crate

          I love to read novels where one of the characters is a writer because it gives me another perspective into a writer’s life. Knowing this, one of my friends recommended November 9 by Colleen Hoover to me.

It’s classified as a New Adult book explained a librarian friend when I asked if she had read it. She hadn’t, but she liked some other books by Colleen Hoover.

Whether you are a new adult (ages roughly 18-23) or not, Colleen Hoover is a terrific writer who shares many insightful asides in her books. I’m going to concentrate my review on those lines as I don’t want to include any plot spoilers.

In November 9, Ben and Fallon are the main characters who meet when they are 18. He’s a writer. She’s an actress. For several reasons, they have an unconventional relationship seeing each other only once a year on November 9th. The chapters alternate from Fallon’s perspective to Ben’s.

Here are some of my favorite lines and insightful asides:

…The man [Fallons’ father] has absolutely zero remorse. I both hate and envy it. In a way, I wish I were more like him and less like my mother. He’s oblivious to his many flaws, whereas mine are the focal point of my life. My flaws are what wake me in the morning and what keep me awake every night. (page 5)

…It’s the worst time in the world for me to get emotional, but I guess tears aren’t known for their impeccable timing. (pp. 48-49)

“Don’t push your luck.”

He laughs. “Why the hell does luck exist if I’m not supposed not to push it?” (page 52)

          …But this apartment is too comfortable, and comfort can sometimes be a crutch when it comes to figuring out your life. Goals are achieved through discomfort and hard work. They aren’t achieved when you hide out in a place where you are nice and cozy. (page 68)

Actually, I don’t even think I showed [my poem] to anyone. My mother found it in my room, which is how I came to respect the beauty of privacy. She showed everyone in my entire family and it made me never want to share my work again. (page 84)

“…When you find love, you take it. You grab it with both hands and do everything in your power not to let it go. You can’t just walk away from it and expect it to linger until you’re ready for it.” (page 168)

…It’s funny how a grown adult can just forget how to function properly in the presence of someone else. But I feel like my insides are so hot, they’re beginning to scorch my bones… (page 199)

          I found Colleen Hoover’s writing and insightful asides engaging. Her plot is twisty and wrenching—just like love so I'm recommending it in honor of St. Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Book Review Love Letters

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          February is a good time to write love letters to the important people in our lives. Why shouldn’t we include our favorite authors by writing reviews for books we love?
          According to author and award-winning blogger Kristen Lamb on on January 4th, the best place to publish reviews is As she notes, writers appreciate hearing both praise and constructive criticism from their readers.
Positive reviews, a few sentences or a few paragraphs, can increase sales for favorite authors which, hopefully, will translate into more books for us to read in the future. Plus what writer doesn’t want to hear that his/her work is appreciated and even loved?
          Since I cannot imagine my life without books, I want to encourage and thank the authors of the books I love. I’ve decided to write at least one review on per month. It’s the least I can do in return for the hours of joy I get from reading.
          How about you?