Monday, November 25, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: The Very Best Bookish Things I'm Thankful For This Year

"Top Ten Tuesday" is a weekly countdown meme, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish

Bear with me, and pardon the emotions, as I get as mushy and gross as the canned cranberry mess oozing across Thanksgiving plates this upcoming holiday, because I'm about to expostulate on some of my favorite book-y things that have significantly brightened up my life within the past year. 

1. S.J. Maas
Maybe I've just got her stuck in my mind because I finished Crown of Midnight all of a day and a half ago, but I'm still filled with awe at the guts this lovely lady has, to flawlessly dominate everything we knew to be true about Young Adult books, and turn them completely on their head. And if you follow her Twitter, you can tell that she clearly loves her fans. Homegirl is doin' this whole author thing right

2. Reconnecting With My Kindle 
Hello, I am a despicable human being. My Kindle has not only gotten a lot of use this past year, but it has superseded actual print in my reading practices, in helping me get my favorite new releases even faster, and at cheaper prices, too. I mean, I don't have easy access to a bookstore... can you imagine how long I'd have had to wait for Crown of Midnight otherwise??? Damn you, convenient technology! 

3. YA Book Bloggers on Twitter
@mizgillianberry, @Lili_Reflects, @Reader_Fictions, @EllaBeeReads, etc. make my day with their constant updates about all book-related goodness. Like, constant. And then they're so funny and relatable that I try to bring them up in conversation, and the moment passes because I'm so preoccupied with figuring out the least creepy iteration of what to call them: "That totally reminds me of something my friend - I mean, acquain - this... person... I follow... online... Nevermind." 

4. Goodreads
THANK THE LORD ABOVE for the goodness that is Goodreads, something I never knew I needed until I had it. How else am I supposed to do things like connect with authors and other bookworms, stalk the novels that my friends are reading without invading personal boundaries, and make endless, endless lists about everything I know and love in BookWorld? 

5. College Dorm Room Bookshelves
I know I just confessed to the cardinal sin of  mentioned how much play my Kindle has been recently, but that doesn't mean it isn't nice to have some of your best and newest paper-bound friends up at school with you. Besides, do you know how impressive it comes off as, when you have a fully-stocked bookshelf in the small space you have in your dorm room? 

6. English Major Friends
In English 111, Freshman Fall Quarter, it was Lisa and Cady. In English 297 and 301 Winter Quarter, it was Susan, Joanna, Hannah, and Ally. Susan, Joanna, and Hannah and I all followed each other into English 302 in the Spring, and now, in English 333, back to Fall, I've found Megan and Hallie

In every single English class I've taken at UW, a bunch of random people in a classroom, turned into people you sit next to in lecture, turned into study buddies, and at some point, spontaneously erupted into full-blown, real-world friendships, involving debates over Heathcliff, dedication to sub-genres (like "The Cult of Austen," as Prof. Lockwood calls it), and fangirling over Lizzie B. and Emma Approved like nobody's business. I LOVE my English friends, many of whom still take the time to read my blog (D'aww). 

7. The Art of Fangirling
Speaking of fangirling, I've never really experienced the cathartic release of book-related feelings in a public forum before this year, and let me tell you, it feels great. From Darcy to Dickens, recent releases and English class classics, freaking out over fiction has never been so socially acceptable, and I love it! 

8. ARCs 
Oh my GOODNESS I love ARCs. You mean people - a lot of them, actually - are more than willing to send me books for free, providing simply that I'm willing to read them? Are you kidding me? 

9. College Fashion 
I know that I might have a slight tendency to complain about my position as contributing editor when a deadline's looming over my head, but I am actually extremely grateful for the ability to write for this website for the past year. Not only is it, honestly, great for my resume, and great at making me sound incredibly important when I bring it up in party conversation, but it's given me a great vehicle for exercising one of my oldest passions: fashion styling and history. Books and pretty clothes are always going to be two of my greatest loves, and College Fashion has given me ample room to talk about it. 

10. Everyone Who Actually Reads My Blog
Yeah, you guys. I hope you never think that I take you for granted. Whether you're a dedicated follower through Facebook and Goodreads, or if this is even the first time you've popped over for a "Top Ten Tuesday" post, thank you so much for your patronage and support. I'm not going to say that you guys give my blog meaning or anything, because, honestly, I'd still be writing, reading, and reviewing even without it... but you all definitely make me feel less crazy for doing so. Thanks for making me feel like the things I say are worth a listen. 

So, in conclusion, I am a very, very fortunate person, with a lot in my life for which to be thankful, but especially those that have to do with all of the books and the industry I care about so much. 

Thank you everyone, and have a great holiday! :) 

Friday, November 22, 2013

There's No Write Way

We're edging out on the end of the month of November, and yet, those brave souls who have surrendered their free time to the beast that is NaNoWriMO are still soldiering on. However, from a few of them, I've heard of the development of some strange habits - carefully-constructed time schedules and nocturnal practices abound - and inspired by these strange compulsions, I decided to take a peek into the practices of other authors, with this recent release!

Fresh off of the success of her documenting the strange origins of some of the world's most fabulous stories in Dancing with Mrs. Dalloway, Celia Blue Johnson is at it again with Odd Type Writers: From Joyce and Dickens to Wharton and Welty, the Obsessive Habits and Quirky Techniques of Great Authors. As the extended title would make easily apparent, the novel creeps back into the bedrooms, studies, libraries, and cabins of even the most reclusive of authors, to figure out how, exactly, they did what they did. From self-mandated house arrest (Victor Hugo), to storing rotten apples in his desk drawer (Friedrich Schiller), to what surprising companionship both Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe had in common in their practices, this book investigates that integral step in the writing process: what actually helped these classic names to sit down, and write!

I've already been a fan of Celia Blue Johnson's, and her work continues on in this book as well. She does an excellent job with scholastically gathering citation-worthy facts about the private lives of many different authors, and stringing them together to form glimpses through the windows of time and place, to see how these writers lived, in a way that's interesting, exciting, and easily approachable, even if you haven't read the works by all (or any) of these writers before.

If anything, sometimes the writing style is done with such a clinical baseness that it completely overshoots the bounds of scholarly accessibility, and lands somewhere near the lower rungs of the reading comprehension ladder. For a work that extols the virtues of some heavy lifters of the literary world, Johnson's writing is decidedly  vanilla, non elaborate, and un-distracting from the information presented within the context of the work itself, rather than crowding fact with ornate prose and interest. This depending on your own reading preference, can be a godsend, or, if you're anything like me, almost distracting in itself.

However, the information-gathering is, after all, the highlight of the book. From Charles Dickens playing with kittens to Agatha Christie eating apples and solving mysteries from the comfort of her bathtub, from pen color choices to pencil sharpening methods, standing up, sitting down, or lying straight on their stomach, this is compelling stuff. And then, you can judge for yourself how the method of these greats compare to your own chosen method of getting the words out.

Unfortunately, the book itself is rather short, and was barely the work of one afternoon for this reader. However the topic presented was imagination-sparking enough, that I'm sure I'll be imagining my favorite authors at their means of occupation as they were described in this book, every time I take a trip back into their best works.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Take to the Sky

We're almost at the halfway point through NaNoWriMo - yeah, yeah, and the month of November - and like I may have mentioned before, a couple of my specifically industrious friends have decided to take part. (One of them has even finished already!) While my school and sorority lives kept me from getting involved this year, I still wanted to take the month to improve my writing skills regardless, so instead of choking out almost 2,000 words a day to tackle my own book, I decided to read one instead. One about writing, of course.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott, is a popular work detailing an author's experience with writing, and a particularly adept one at that. The title was inspired by her father's advice to a younger brother, attempting to finish a report on birds for school in only one day ("Just take it bird by bird), and her own method for writing takes a similar approach. Spelling out the steps of the development process for burgeoning writers - from "Shitty First Drafts" to "How to You Know When You're Done?" - with honesty and heart, Lamott teaches how to keep your eyes open, and see the possibilities of where your words can take you, whether that's to a publisher or simply to a greater feeling of fulfillment for yourself and your abilities as a writer.

The book, as a tool for writing, had some pretty great advice. The options Lamott gave for stimulating writing practice was sound, and even in reading it, I was ready to leap off of my copy and get to scribbling. However, while the book was exceptional in its inspiration for writing, it got there not from the motivation of the advice, per say, but from the author's personal anecdotes and background.

Lamott's personal voice was exceptionally strong, and its force was a little close to off-putting in the beginning, simply because I'm pretty used to the idea of a book on writing being a little more objective... or have I just been spending too much time with dry, old textbooks? Lamott's book, however, was entirely her own, with every word on the paper. 

In some ways, this was unhelpful, particularly as she warns against taking on the voice of another author. However, what else is the reader going to do after she waxes poetic for several pages on the benefits of digging to the romantic truth of a "one inch frame," or examining the periphery of your developing "Polaroid" of a plot for overlooked elements? Her own voice is strong, but in some cases, a little more of an encouragement and advice towards developing one's own style and delivery might have been welcome, especially because the author's own is so particularly evident.

Still, the fact that you can tell it is Lamott herself that is speaking lends much credence and authenticity to her advice. She conducts the novel as if teaching on of her creative writing classes, and the overall effect is that of an easy approach and comfortable instruction.

Lamott's work is a match of sound advice and conversational delivery, peppered with many of her own personal stories, and founded on her own ample experience as an author. While her own sense of story can sometimes impede the instruction, the advice is bestowed by a seasoned veteran, and it shows. In the end, if you're going braindead on your arduous way towards your NaNoWriMo goal, I would definitely recommend picking up a copy, and expanding your word counts and world-building by way of a little of Lamott's helpful advice. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Coming Attractions: November

{My sister, the Cheerleader, and I on the night she was crowned 2014 Stadium High School Daffodil Princess (I know!); celebrating my birthday with friends (my cupcake has a tiara on it!); and picking pumpkins out at our family's favorite patch}

I'm caught in the middle of a whirlwind - an ever-moving mix of schoolwork, blogging duties, sorority events, and planning for the future's own set of checklists - and am barely capable of stringing together the series of sentences necessary for successfully wrapping up the month of October. It was a pretty solid set of blog posts, but with the rise of the sun this morning, as all of the Halloween goblins and ghoulies took to the shadows for another year, we're now officially in the land of working hard and giving thanks, three day weekends, cold mornings that can only be warmed up properly with a cup of warm black tea. 

That's right, it's officially November, and while I'm primarily celebrating the fact that it is once again socially acceptable to have an active Christmas board on Pinterest, and that Starbucks cups are now prepped and ready for as many Peppermint Hot Chocolates as my stomach can handle, it also means that now is the season for National Novel Writing Month, aka, NaNoWriMo! While I, myself, will not be partaking this year, I thoroughly applaud all of those brave souls who have already attached themselves to such a daunting task. Bravo! While you're all busy coming up with new content this month, so, too, am I:

  • I know the tab in the top menu has been sitting empty for a while now, but that's just because I had to come up with a system of review that I liked. So, this month, I'm building my Past Reviews Library! 
  • Two great College Fashion link ups, the first of which applies to a certain sci-fi epic that hit theaters at midnight last night! 
  • A discussion about making it all more modern, with literary adaptations set in a contemporary time period! 
  • Not to mention more Top Ten Tuesdays, and specially-themed new reviews to fit in with my NaNoWriMo readers! 
While I re-burrow myself into my gaping pit of a social life, and recommit myself to finishing this College Fashion article before Sunday afternoon, I'll leave you with this: