Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Still Writing: A Review

Last week, I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Still Writing by Dani Shapiro. I love a good book about writing, especially when I like the writer. I read a novel by Dani years ago and it was very good. I just shipped off a set of rewrites to my agent and, while I wait for him to read, I figured it was a good time to refresh my writer-spirit.

I adored this book. Some writing books are too instructive and some are pretty out there, but this was a good balance of memoir (Dani has led a very interesting life) and advice. Usable advice.

Sometimes, I would think, "No, that's not true," but then Dani would explain herself and I would get it. It may or may not be true for how and why I write, but it did make sense and it gave me a new way to look at my own habits and mindsets.

While reading, I felt inspired to retry an old story idea. I toyed with it and thought about the things Dani said in her book. I started writing by hand, at her suggestion, though I normally compose directly into Scrivener. For the first time in years, I was able to do so without constant hand-cramps. It's a different feeling, not watching my word count with every tap of the keys. It's a free-er writing experience, and I am enjoying it. A week later, I am still writing longhand and typing the result into Scrivener every couple of days. That gives me a chance to constantly look over my writing and stay grounded in the scenes that came before.

I highly recommend this book to those of you who are new to the writing life and to the veterans. On that spectrum, I fall somewhere in between, I suppose. I've been writing and publishing short pieces in some form for more than a decade, but it's only in the last few years I've taken the plunge into long fiction and acquired an agent. I found Dani's book both delightful and helpful, a lovely combination.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Felicities: 8/23/13

Friday Felicities

Writing longhand for 3 days without pain
Hocus curled up to sleep
Size 6 Gap long and lean jeans
Phone calls from Leila
Orange is the New Black on Netflix
Creating people
Naming towns
Abby's closet
Catching up with Melissa
Seeing Rosie and my girls for Small Group
Writing letters on pretty paper
Opening a brand new Scrivener document
New colors
Liturgy of the Hours

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bookish Questions: Part II

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?

I read everywhere. Dad would take me to the library, and I had to use his card so I could check out 25 books instead of 10. I read them the way someone else might stuff their face with brownies (or, actually, the way I sometimes stuff my face with brownies) and then he took me back for another 25.

What's the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was too good to put down?

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Wow. That book rocked. I sat in bed, on Mother's Day, and read from the moment I was awake until I finally fell asleep sometime late that night.

Have you ever faked reading a book?

In high school, I re-wrote the ending of Invisible Man despite having not read it. I made an A. My teacher put my paper on the bulletin board. Did I feel ashamed? Nope. I was durn proud of my skills.

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked its cover?

Yes. More than once, I'm sure. Most recently, I used part of a gift card to buy Glass Wives. Something about the cover drew me in. I'm not sure what, because it isn't a particularly amazing cover. It must have been the mood I was in, craving a certain style of story.

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

Define "child." Ha! I was obsessed with the Oz books (still am). In 8th grade, I fell for Rebecca and wrote my own sequel (the only fan iction I have ever penned). If we go back even younger, I adored the Choose Your Own Adventure novels, along with Sweet Valley and Baby-Sitters Club. Oh, I know now!! Favorite childhood book: The Great Gilly Hopkins. It made me want to be a writer, to create people.

What book changed your life?

I supposed saying The Bible is a bit cliche, no matter how true. Other books that altered my life in some way include: Follow the Yellow Brick Road, One Thousand Gifts, Wild Goose Chase, Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Irresistible Revolution, and Searching for God Knows What.

What is your favorite passage from a book?

What a tough question. There are many, but the one that instantly popped into my mind was this, from Lolita:

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

Who are your top 5 favorite authors?

This kills me. I have favorite authors within genres. Hmm... I will do two lists. I have two.

Jodi Picoult
Sarah Addison Allen
Joshilyn Jackson
Barbara Kingsolver
Pat Conroy

G K Chesterton
C S Lewis
Sue Monk Kidd
Donald Miller
Anne Lamott

What book has no one heard about but should read?

I will go with Poemcrazy. I know plenty of my poet friends know the book, but it has a much wider application for life. My copy is underlined and highlighted and bent and worn from use. It's my creative-soul Bible, in a way. It helps me remember to be who I am, as a writer, yes, but also as a person. It is a reminder to have fun, to not take myself so seriously. I adore it.

What book are you an evangelist for?

Lots. I am forever convincing people to read something. Corey and I joke that I should be receiving royalties. Books I have recently convinced other people to buy include: Red Letter Revolution, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and Cutting for Stone.

What are your favorite books by a first-time author?

I loved The World's Strongest Librarian. It was both funny and helpful. I loved Joss' first novel, Gods in Alabama. Jacqueline West's Elsewhere series is her first bit of fiction. The first book was fabulous. I want to read the rest as well.

What is your favorite classic book?

East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

Five other notable mentions:

Lisa Samson's books. She writes "Christian fiction" that I actually enjoy reading.
Story of the World books make history come alive for me and my kids. I adore them.
Joan Bauer is a favorite. She writes good stories.
Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer was fabulous. So different in a good way.
Everything Chris Cleave writes is magic. Can I be him when I grow up?

Review: Bitter like Orange Peel

I was torn about how to rate this novel. If I could’ve cut most of Ivy from the story, I would have given it at least four stars, if not five. I didn’t like Ivy. She made me vacillate between eye rolling annoyance and head banging frustration.

I loved Kit. A lot And I loved Ailish and even Eleanor. Eydie was awesomeness. I loved her spunk and wanted her to make it. I felt invested in the characters. I kept reading, driven to know each incremental secret they would slowly reveal to me.

At one point in the novel, Bell uses the words, “Thick breaths. Bitter secrets.” I highlighted that. It seemed to sum up their lives so succinctly.

The ending disappointed me a bit. I didn’t understand whether Ailish was correct in what she assumed or not. It wasn’t clear.

All in all, I enjoyed the read. I would read more by this author. She has a way with description that reeks of poetry. Being a poet, those were my favorite parts. I’d have loved more time on the bathroom floor, writing with Ailish.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bookish Questions - Part I

Stealing this from my friend, Gina.

Favorite Book Cover:

Just one? Cause, I love Joshilyn's covers. Her new one is especially fun, and I adored the cover for A Grown Up Kind of Pretty. I just finished The Pentrals, and I chose to read it based almost entirely on the gorgeous cover. Ok, just one... Lolita. I have an obsession with Lolita covers. I could wallpaper a room in them. Here are a few of my favorites: Reclining with book, Lips, Lo Lee Ta

What are you reading right now?

Bitter like Orange Peel by Jessica Bell. I downloaded it for review from Net Galley.

Do you have any idea what you'll read when you're done with that?

I have a Tana French book on hold at the library. If it isn't in yet, I'm not sure. I read by mood, so there's no telling what I will decide on.

What 5 books have you always wanted to read but never gotten around to?

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. Dana says I will love it, and she is usually right about these things.
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. My dad's a big fan, and it's pretty classic.
The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger. I mean, I should have read this by now, right?
Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila. She fascinates me.
The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. I loved his book on prayer.

What magazines do you have right now?

I don't really do magazines. There are some National Geographic Kids magazines scattered here and there.

What's the worst book you've read?

That's a hard one. I mean, just because I don't love a book doesn't make it bad. Someone else may enjoy it.

What book seemed really popular but you didn't like it?

Wicked. I didn't hate it, but the munchkin porn was a bit much for my taste. Also, I adore Oz and I didn't like how he took so much of the innocent magic away. On the other hand, the musical is amazing. I could watch it everyday and never get tired of it.

What's the one book you always recommend to just about anyone?

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

What are your 3 favorite poems?

Just 3? Seriously? I will go with "Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day" by Nikki Giovanni, "Parting" by Emily Dickinson and "Goblin Market" by Christina Rossetti.

Where do you usually get your books?

A little bit of everywhere. I visit the library weekly and I frequent the Goodwill bookstore. I browse B&N sometimes and use Bookmooch and Amazon. I just started using Net Galley as well. I adore Square Books in Oxford.

To be continued...

Friday Felicities: 8/16/13

Friday Felicities

A couple of hours at Starbucks with Rachel
The sunlight on my hallway floor
David and Hocus reading together
Patterned tape in the mail
Card from Addie
Tweet from Anna Claire
Text from Ellen
Convos with Tara
Joanne's daughter's pens and the cause she supports, Check her out: Em's Pens
Peyton's Canaan drawings
Call from Leila
Writing exchanges with Stephanie

I could go on. It was one of those weeks were people offered small blessings left and right. They kept me afloat.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review: The Pentrals

Sometimes the best way to tell the truth is to tell a lie.

That’s what ran through my head as I was reading The Pentrals by Crystal Mack. She creates a world that is simultaneously dystopian and contemporary. I recognize the city of Talline even while acknowledging it’s existential impossibility. I relate to the feeling that who you are can be determined by how you look and that escaping the heavy hopelessness could be worth anything, even swallowing a little white pill day after day after day.

In a market flooded with vampires and fairies and other paranormal creatures, I found the shadows and reflections of Mack’s imaginary world a breath of fresh air. I have never thought from that perspective. What would I see if I spent my life attached to someone else’s feet?

Ultimately, the truth Antares uncovers is the same truth we live with in modern-day America. Instead of distorted reflections in the mirror, we have them on the television and in magazines. Our reflections don’t lie, but our media does.

I enjoyed this novel and look forward to a second installment in the future. If you're looking for your next bit of YA Dystopia/Supernatural, I suggest pre-ordering The Pentrals, due out in November. 2013.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Currently: This Black August

Current Books: I am one essay from finishing I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. It's funny. Not laugh out loud funny, but amusing. I have a few books on hold. With the boys, I'm reading a biography of Jim Thorpe and The Library Card by Jerry Spinelli.

Current Playlist: If Haydn's having a meltdown, I play praise music. That's about it.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure - Salted Caramel Gelato

Current Colors: Brights

Current Fetish: Pretty paper, postcards, paper tape

Current Food: chicken and veggies

Current Drink: coffee or water.

Current Favorite Favorite: Peyton. He's one of the college guys at church. He drew sketches for my manuscript. They are awesome. He is amazing.

Current Wishlist: a Mac for the boys to do school on, new tennis shoes, a pedicure

Current Needs: A couple of home repairs, answers

Current Triumph: The Tornado rewrite is complete. It took longer than expected, but it was worth every second. I am so excited about the changes and the finished product.

Current Indulgence: I bleached part of my hair and dyed it green.

Current Mood: Strangely detached.

Current #1 Blessing: My husband and my friends

Current Outfit: My orange Hendrix t-shirt and jeans with flip-flops

Current Link: This website is amazing. I'm using it for Science and Health with Haydn and Art with David.

Current Quote“Life starts out with everyone clapping when you take a poo and goes downhill from there. ” 
― Sloane CrosleyI Was Told There'd Be Cake

Current Photo:

Title taken from a poem my Derek Walcott

So much rain, so much life like the swollen sky
of this black August. My sister, the sun,
broods in her yellow room and won't come out.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

{pretty.happy.funny.real} First Week of School

Yay! It's Thursday! That means, I have a poem up at Middle Places and I'm going to play along to my favorite meme with Like Mother Like Daughter.


I spent the morning working on postcards to send to some of our youth and college kids. I love doing these, and they always seem to be a pleasure to their recipients. Who doesn't love pretty snail mail, right? 


I won this tee through the summer reading program at our public library. I also won a pen, a notepad, a handheld battery-powered fan, a bag, and a chalkboard coffee mug. Fun! We have a great library, and I love excuses to visit. Not that I really NEED an excuse to visit a building full of books.


I really want this shirt. And quite a few others from this website. They are my new favorite. 


It's back to school at the Truett casa. Haydn is working on Geography in this picture. He has a map of Canada pulled up on his Kindle and is labeling the territories in his book. The kitchen table is the center of our day, so it tends to collect clutter.

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