So I’ve decided to complicate my life here and start taking review requests. If you’re truly interested I’d encourage you to email first to discuss what your book is about, what stage of the publishing process it is in, and what kind of review you are looking for. When I read I take detailed notes and I usually begin writing the review right after I read it. I have no patience for underdeveloped characters and plot holes. Often times I find that when people give me something to critique they will claim that they want an “honest” opinion, but when detailed, constructive criticism is given, they don’t want it. Or the opposite scenario: they’ll listen to what you have to say and later on give you a published copy with the same questionable content still in there, flashing like a neon sign. Almost as if you wasted your time to begin with critiquing it in the first place. Personally I welcome all criticism if I ask for it; I would much rather a reviewer tell me what was wrong with my book before it went to print then have people post ridiculous things on Amazon.com about it, you know?
The details of my review policy are on the appropriate page.
I’ve always maintained that if you really want to learn how to write fiction, you gotta start with short stories. You only have a couple of pages to grab a reader’s attention and establish the basics before your audience completely loses their patience and stops reading. It’s the first litmus test of whether or not you’re truly mastering your craft as a writer. If a particular writer has decent short stories, chances are you’ll eventually read their novel.
My first writing experiences when I began writing at age 7 were short stories: fanciful little numbers that were inspired mostly by the 80s movies I grew up watching (“The Goonies,” “The Never Ending Story,” etc). Later on in my literature classes in school a whole new world was opened (Edgar Allan Poe, Hawthorne, etc) and they never left my heart. As a teacher I always used them in my instruction to engage students. Today I came across an article on Buzzfeed entitled “23 Short Stories You’ll Want to Read Over and Over Again” and some of my MAJOR faves got left out, so I made my own list. Enjoy!
Now some of these are already on Buzzfeed’s list, but because they’re my faves too, they’re listed again. In no particular order:
- “Thank You, Ma’am” – Langston Hughes
- “The Story of an Hour” – Kate Chopin
- “The Lottery” – Shirley Jackson
- “The Tell Tale Heart” – Edgar Allan Poe
- “All Summer in a Day” – Ray Bradbury
- “Patriotism” – Yukio Mishima
- “A Rose for Emily” – William Faulkner
- “Young Goodman Brown” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
- “The Necklace” – Guy de Maupaussant
- “The Cask of Amontillado” – Edgar Allan Poe
- “Sweat” – Zora Neale Hurston
- “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” – Flannery O’Connor
- “Raymond’s Run” – Toni Cade Bambara
- “Super Frog Saves Tokyo” – Haruki Murakami
- “Eyes of Zapata” – Sandra Cisneros
- “Everyday Use” – Alice Walker
- “The Pit and the Pendulum” – Edgar Allan Poe
- “Wild Child” – T.C. Boyle
- “Cora, Unashamed” – Langston Hughes
- “Graveyard Shift” – Stephen King
How long has it been? A month? Maybe two?
As far as changes, I’ve recently purchased a nifty domain for this site, 29chapters.com. I had originally meant to do that from the inception but for some reason the action kept getting put on the bottom of my To Do list. Why 29chapters? Well, I was born on November 29th. And since this site is about books, why not? Phases in our lives are chapters, and books are a large part of my life. Brilliant!
I don’t know if I’ve ever told you already, but I’ll be starting on my doctorate full time this fall. I’ll be studying Curriculum and Instruction with a specific concentration in Literacy. My coursework will take at least 2 years, my dissertation will take another year beyond that. This program suits a person like me, who spent nine years as an English teacher in a middle school and now seeks to start a career in academia. The details took a while to pin down, but I can proudly say that I’ll be beginning my coursework in August. I’m excited, but I’m not sure how much time I’ll have left over after a busy day of class for pleasure reading.
Fortunately, I have tons of book reviews I’ve already written in my Evernote account. If a cut and paste is necessary to get me through the dark days of no 29chapters.com for weeks at a time, I’ll do just that.
Otherwise, I’m still here. The spring days are hor here, and I can’t wait to share my summer reading with you. I have a few reviews I’ll be posting over the next couple days. Stay posted!
From an essay by Ian Brown on keeping a notebook, as published in the Globe and Mail:
“It’s a neurotic habit, a personal notebook. It can work as a diary, but it’s not intended for publication…A diary is an accounting. A notebook, by contrast, is to record details that reach out as you pass, for reasons not immediately apparent. A notebook is full of moments from days that have yet to become something. “Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether,” Joan Didion wrote in a famous essay about notebooks, “lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.”
I have always kept some kind of notebook from the time I began writing, when I was 10 or 11. All kinds of stuff would go in there, homework assignments, what I wore for school, funny observations about people I was too shy to discuss with anyone (“she wore that sweater yesterday, her hair smells like cheese”), diary entries, ideas for stories. I can’t find a single trace of these notebooks today, but I can tell you that to this day, my notebooking habit endures. There is my trusty red moleskine notebook/planner that I write EVERYTHING in (appointments, meetings, interesting things I watch on TV, books I’d like to read, what bills to pay and when) and my plain brown, Staples composition book that functions more as a diary. Here I do not edit, and write completely without censoring myself. I never intend to publish what is in my diary because I’ve always looked upon it as a playground for exploration, a way to process certain events and understand them. Anyone who is serious about the craft should probably be writing in a notebook, it’s the best (and cheapest) therapies you’ll find.
More of Ian Brown’s article is here…
Just a few of the 300+ books on my reading list I’ve set aside for reading this year. Like many of you, some books have been on my ‘to-do’ list for so long but remain unread due to the new things constantly catch my attention. Ah, the book nerd’s dilemma…
I didn’t win this year. Even though I am slightly crushed, I think I am ok with this.
My intentions were good. I planned for several weeks before–my plot, my characters. I started on midnight November 1st and went about writing MY novel. And it worked at first. Despite my work schedule, motherly duties, the general business of running my household I set aside time for my endeavor. Words flew from my fingers. I was killing it.
I wrote with wild abandon up to the second week, and then something happened.
I began to lose steam. Entering word counts, following schedules, typing X amount of words per day. It began to feel more like a chore than an enjoyable experience. So I stopped recording the word count and stressing about the looming date of November 30.
I am still writing. My novel isn’t dead. But it won’t be finished within the span of 30 days. While I applaud NaNoWriMo’s efforts in just getting people’s off their asses and writing, their 30 day window cannot contain me.
My novel will be finished when I need to finish it. It may or may not have 50,000 words, but it’s cool. It may not make sense either, but that’s ok too. I am writing, and that’s what’s important.
Back to blogging again. I’ve been hit by the writing bug once more and this time it won’t leave me in peace. Since I’m not teaching anymore I have tons of time to do this and do it right. I’ve always wanted to start a book blog, and even though Tumblr is cool for that very purpose, it isn’t a space for me to get serious about my craft. On Tumblr there are simply too many pictures, too many voices, too much distraction. Here I want to just write–reviews, discuss literature, and explore ideas I can write about (and hopefully sell) later. I will eventually set this up as a domain and get a better design, probably next month when NaNoWriMo starts. But anyway, bear with me. This this will see the light of day and bear fruit, or be damned.