Monday, November 28, 2016

Best Bookmarks: Gifts for Readers and Writers

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I like to look at pretty and clever bookmarks, but I don’t use them—mostly because I can never find them when I need them. If I’m reading my own books either I turn the books over and leave them splayed where I left off or I use a ripped scrap of paper from a nearby magazine or note pad. This is also what I use when marking a page in a friend’s book.

I know there are sticky page marker tabs. They are perfect bookmarks if you take one and stick it to the book cover. Whenever you need it, there it is. Peel it off and stick it to a page. When you start reading the book again, peel it off and stick it back on the cover. But the pads are so small, I can’t always find them either.

Then some neon page markers caught my eye. The bright pink, orange, yellow, green, and blue translucent tabs are stuck to a clear sheet of plastic. Between the neon colors and the size of the backing, they are easy to find in a drawer, on a desk, or a bedside table.

I love the colors so much I have given up folding the bottom corners of pages to denote favorite sentences and passages. I now put a neon sticky tab on each of those pages. Since they are translucent, I don’t have to move them to reread a page.

I stagger the tabs and colors. Sticking up about a quarter of an inch, they look like confetti—a party in a book—which makes me smile every time I see them.

If you are looking for a gift or stocking stuffer for a reader or writer, these neon sticky page markers are a fun choice!

Due to illness, Backpack Literature post will run next week.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Reads for Writers: Why We Write About Ourselves edited by Meredith Maran

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I write first person essays for several outlets so when I discovered Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature edited by Meredith Maran, I had to read it. Another selling point, several of my favorite memoirists are in the book including Anne Lamott, Sue Monk Kidd, and Cheryl Strayed. After reading the book, I have many more memoirists’ work I want to read.

Each chapter begins with an introduction of the memoirist, vital stats, a list of published works, then his or her answer to: Why I write about myself? The rest of the chapter subheadings are different as each author discusses his or her writing process and beliefs. At the end of each chapter, there are Words of Wisdom for Memoirists.

Here are some of my favorite passages:        

“Don’t be afraid of writing into the heart of what you’re most afraid of. The story of life lives in what you would rather not admit or say.”
--Kate Christensen (page 20)

“…I firmly believe that there are things we already know and spend a lot of time resisting. You can try, but the amount of energy you spend trying not to know what you already know will be exhausting.”                     
--A. M. Homes (page 102)

“The reason to write memoir is to put something important out into the collective consciousness, to distill one human life as you’ve come to understand it…”
--Anne Lamott (page 140)

“Know that the writing will lead you to places you can’t imagine you will go…writing comes from a place beneath intellectual consciousness. The only way to get to that place is by writing. Trust the magic of that process.”
--James McBride (page 164)

“My work doesn’t hinge on shock value. I tell only what needs to be told for the work to reach its full potential. I’m not interested in confession. I’m interested in revelation.
--Cheryl Strayed (page 212)

“If you’re not uncomfortable and scared while you’re writing, you’re not writing close enough to the bone.”
--Ayelet Waldman (page 230)

“You get the most powerful material when you write toward whatever hurts. Don’t avoid it. Don’t run from it. Don’t write toward what’s easy. We recognize our humanity in those most difficult moments that people share.
--Jesmyn Ward (page 242)

 I want to read many of the books listed by the authors in Why We Write About Ourselves including Ayelet Waldman’s Love and Other Impossible Pursuits which sounded interesting and familiar. Searching through my unread books, I found it—a future book review.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Year Without New Books

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          About five months ago I reviewed Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill. In this memoir, Hill goes looking for her copy of Howards End on her landing, but it isn’t in that bookcase or in the many other bookcases in several other rooms. By the time she finds it, Hill comes across about 200 books she hadn’t read yet. Deciding to read these books, Hill decides she will not buy any new books, unless required by her publishing job, for a year.
         I’ve been reorganizing some of my books and realized I have a few hundred of my own that I haven’t read or started but haven’t finished.

How does this happen?

It’s easy. While I read every book I received as a gift or bought through the Scholastic catalog in school when a child, as an adult I can buy or borrow more books than I have time to read. As I’m a voracious reader, most friends and family members give me gift certificates to bookstores for birthdays and holidays and it doesn’t take long to fill a shopping cart/basket.

Although I read and write for a living, I have to read most books on deadline. When looking for novels to review, I have to read two or three to find one to I’d like to review. For non-fiction, I don’t have to finish reading the book before I decide if it is review-worthy so I save a little time there, but end up with a lot of partially read books.

I don’t get rid of them because sometimes these books are review-worthy, but I can’t complete reading them with enough time to write the review by deadline so I save them for the future. Sometimes I need to digest books so a few months after I read them I decide to review them. No wonder books pile up.

Not surprisingly, I have decided not to buy any books for a year. This moratorium started on November 1st.

So far so good! All these unread books caught my interest or they wouldn’t be piled up in my home so it’s not painful to concentrate on them. As I read and review them, I’ll lend or give them to friends or donate them—unless I truly love them. These books will grace the shelves of my personal library.

Unfortunately, the pain will come when I hear or read about fantastic new books or favorite authors have new releases. Luckily, I can make a list or pile these books in an online shopping cart. In only fifty weeks, I’ll have room to pile them up at home again!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Reads for Writers: Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

         I believe in supporting writers of all ages so I’m recommending Word After Word After Word by Newbery Medal-winning author Patricia MacLachlan. While written for children ages 8-12, this book is inspirational for writers of all ages.  

In summation: Miss Cash’s fourth grade class welcomes Ms. Mirabel, a writer who will be speaking to them for six weeks about how writer’s work. On her first day with the children, Ms. Mirabel was asked if what she wrote was real or unreal. She replied, “Real or unreal. They’re just about the same…They are both all about magical words!” (page 16)

Later Ms. Mirabel whispers to a student named Lucy who isn’t sure she has anything to say, “You have a story in there…Or a character, a place, a poem, a moment in time. When you find it, you will write it. Word after word after word.” (pp. 20 & 21)

“Remember this if you remember anything from our time together,” said Ms. Mirabel. “Writing…is…brave. You are brave.” (page 114)

Great advice for writers of any age!

In this book, five of the students meet under a lilac bush to discuss writing and the happenings in their lives. True to real life, the children are experiencing happiness, tragedy, and changes they have no control over. As words come to them, they write poems and stories.
         When I was a child, I dreamed of being a writer. I had stories and songs and poems inside me that I jotted down. Yet, as I’ve grown older, I only write essays and articles. Where are the songs and poems and stories that poured out of me in the beginning?
         This book inspired me to grab a notebook and pen, sit under my favorite tree, and write songs, poems, and stories about life and love—word after word after word.