Three books seems to be about all I can get through during COVID-19 in a month.
Writing these days is sparse. I keep picking at Long Weekend, and I'm finding myself slowly rising above the COVID-19 distraction on some days. I know if I can focus for a couple of days in a row, I'm likely to get hooked into the characters enough that I will pick up some speed.
Hi, all! I wanted to share a couple of "greatest hits" posts with everyone, and also to add to the resources I've shared with you in the past. Earlier today, I heard from Barbara Lincoln:
"I would just like to say a quick word of thanks! As a youth services librarian and educator, I've been running a fun writers workshop for 12-15 year olds and thought you might enjoy hearing that we were able to get some great use out of your older post, 'Writerly Resources: Free and Low-Cost' before the self-quarantine and social distancing. We were even able to use some of this information for our most recent group project! Thanks so much for sharing!"
I'm so honored that folks are not only reading this blog, but also that people are finding what I post useful. As a former writing instructor, there's no better feeling than that I've helped someone on their journey.
"I hope you don't mind, but one of our youngest, Amelia has also asked me if I could share an article that she and her mother found together on writing basics for young writers, which includes a great breakdown of potential writing careers, education options and essential skills, self-publishing, book proposals, the editing process, etc. I've included it below if you'd like to review!"
The resource Amelia found is "Writing Careers: The Business Behind Becoming an Author." I took a look, and what a great resource, indeed! Thank you, Amelia! And thank you to Barbara for passing this information along.
In addition to linking to that resources post from December of 2019, I wanted to remind everyone of my "DIY Writer's Retreat" takeaways post, which seems especially relevant now that we are all staying home. Hopefully these resources, which include some great podcasts, will help people feel connected and a little less alone.
And--I have a new favorite writing podcast! Check out Writing Excuses. 15 seasons of 15 minute long podcasts. Quick listening for a walk around the block.
As is evident from my reading rate being cut to 1/3rd of previous months, I am distracted by COVID-19. So, for March, two memoirs is the total of completed reading.
Both of these are enjoyable reads, even as they contain a lot of sadness. A couple of things to know: In the Dream House is written in an experimental form--very short chapters that all start with "Dream House as X". Some readers found this distracting and hated it. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author, and I found it less distracting than I might have if I were reading it off the page.
I will say that the book felt like an MFA thesis to me because of the ways the idea of the Dream House is put through the grinder, the way the author is constantly placing the text she wrote in context with other literary and pop culture texts (and I include movies as "text" here). So, if you try this one, be ready to give up expectations for structure and go with it. You will find things here that you recognize from your own past relationships, I suspect. I sure did.
With Maupin's memoir, realize that if you are a fan of Tales of the City that you won't get much of that here. The book is very much about Maupin's pre-fame days. The book is rich with photos of Maupin as he grew up, and he paints a portrait of his earlier life that does shed light on where his characters like Mary Ann Singleton and Michael Tolliver originated.
I was reading a New Adult novel by a writer whose thrillers I love, but it was too simple and nothing seemed to be happening in the plot. It is the start of a series, so I gave it as much chance as I could manage to set things up, but in the end I made it 50% of the way through and skipped to the last chapter. I'm not going to name it, as I am sure in a different time I would blaze through it. As it was it was slow plotted enough that it helped ensure I drifted off to sleep fairly quickly.
I hope everyone is well and can find something to hold your attention other than the news and the terrible unfolding of the pandemic.
As someone who has worked from home for years, I have the self-entertainment down. I'll be working on some of my stock-piled stitching projects, but realize that not everyone has a craft or hobby they engage in.
Our plans have changed for D's vacation next week, and we are staying put. The raised beds need to be cleaned out and our back patio needs some attention. And, of course, the dogs will need their regular walk about next week.
If you're stuck in the house and want things to do beyond binge-watching TV, check these sites out.
Needlework & Crafts:
Looking to learn a new language? Sites like DuoLingo and Babbel provide free exercises and lessons. I need to get back to my Spanish lessons so next time I'm in Oaxaca I can buy a new suitcase to haul back all the mezcal (true story---I managed to navigate a department store purchase last year for this very purpose. Thanks DuoLingo!).
This might also be a great time to take a course on Coursera. If you're not into a certificate, their courses are free.
Don't forget: a lot of fun can be had with a deck of cards. Bicycle Card Company's site lists rules of play for all kinds of games--even solitaire.
I am still getting in about six reads a month, but I suspect that will slow down a bit because I am starting to work on a manuscript again and have some travel coming up this month.
Because I was still in Kindle Unlimited in February as a reader, I blazed through the most recent Jack Daniels novels. Shot Girl was amazing and Chaser was a bit of a return to the slapstick humor of Harry McGlade and packing a bajillion villains in one novel. Shot Girl is a definite read, though, even if you are feeling a little fatigued by Konrath's series. He has, in both, reinvented Herb, which is a nice touch after so many fat jokes about the guy.
Tig Notaro's book will appeal to those who love the show One Mississippi as it covers much of the same time period--her mother's sudden death, Tig's battle with breast cancer, and her finding the love of her life. I listened to this one.
I also listened to The Underground Railroad. What a great history lesson of a novel (and I mean that in the best way possible). I look forward to The Nickel Boys.
The two non-fiction books here were both review choices--you will find Depressed to Daring's review up on Reedsy Discovery and my review of A Leader's Guide to Memorable Speeches in the upcoming issue of Physician Family.
I hope everyone is meeting their reading goals!
We are finally moved back into the heart of the house--the kitchen, den, and office. You'll excuse the tiny bit of life debris in the after picture--I have yet to wash breakfast dishes today. But, after months of using a temporary kitchen, I wanted to share some tips for those of you considering a kitchen remodel.
And to take a moment to say how happy I am to have kitchen sinks, a dishwasher, and a real range. And an office. And no one else in the house.
I think we lost the last bit of the kitchen some time in late September or early October. What that meant for me as the head cook was that I had to set up a "dry kitchen" in the dining room and set up a kitchen sink substitute in the bathtub in our master bath.
The dining room table got covered with a protective layer of tablecloth (one we bought on clearance) and other protective things to ensure the table didn't take damage from splatters, heat, etc. I have two huge baking sheets and a pizza stone that were great for providing a pretty heat and spill-impervious surface.
For my sink, I took my wire dish drainer and a plastic tote and set them in the bathtub. I kept another plastic tote in the dining room to catch dirty dishes and I would haul them to the tub for washing.
After two weeks or so of having real sinks and a dishwasher, my back and shoulders are almost back to normal.
The new kitchen details:
Because I'm still chipping away at my own ensemble novel, I've been reading a lot of examples of multi-perspective books across genres. Here's what I finished in January.
Despite how clunky the twenty-six year old film Go Fish is, I found myself watching the entire thing again yesterday. Why? In part because of the scene about 42 minutes into the film where the writer character, Max, considers how her life would be if she wound up marrying some nice man and raising kids in the burbs. The character concludes the scene saying, "I'm not waiting for a man. But I get this eerie feeling that a man's waiting for me."
I suspect it's no surprise that I've always been a bit of a bookworm. So, why did I find myself feeling guilty about reading a book in the middle of the day, far from my computer and other devices?