Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Facts About Me

Today I decided to break from tradition a bit and post a weekly tidbit from The Broke and the Bookish’s “Top Ten Tuesday” feature. Today’s (July 12th) designation is “Ten Facts About Me,” which I shall proceed to post in no particular order:

  1. I cannot swim. No particular reason why, I just never really bothered to learn or try. Of course I’ll sit on the beach and chill, or post selfies of myself by the pool in my swim gear, but me in the water? Hell to the no.
  2. I have an obsession with owls. On my Google drive are hundreds of pics I’ve collected on the web, I also have a Pinterest board dedicated to the same. I have mugs, jewelry, figurines, and t-shirts with owls on them. I would explain this obsession with a simple response but I really can’t. I just think owls are pretty kick ass creatures.
  3. I’ve watched the movie Purple Rain about 200 times. I’ve been a Prince fan since I was a small child and I was immensely upset when I learned that he passed away. I still don’t think I’ve come to terms with Prince being gone yet. I don’t think I ever will.
  4. My first job was a gift shop clerk at a local amusement park, which has since shut down. A couple of my HS friends worked there with me in the summer of my sophomore year. If you’ve ever watched the movie Adventureland, I swear it’s the story of my life, lol.
  5. I am terrified of snakes. And spiders. Eww.
  6. I hate the smell and look of mayonnaise. Needless to say, I’ve never touched the stuff. Other foods I’ve never eaten and never will: onions, relish, tomatoes, Snickers bars.
  7. I’ve been the same height (5’2″) since 7th grade. When I used to be an 8th grade teacher, most of my students were taller than me.
  8. I am the oldest child in my family. I have 2 younger sisters.
  9. I knew I wanted to be a teacher pretty early on, around 6th grade. I knew I wanted to be a writer even earlier than that, when I was about 7 years old. Of course, I’ve ALWAYS loved reading. I always knew that my adult life would contain some combination of those three activities.
  10. I stopped eating meat completely (except for fish) when I was about 18. I stayed this way for about 2 years. Not for any particular reason, just wanted to try a different lifestyle.

The Why’s of a Common Place Book

Recently, I was up one night Google-ing (c’mon, you do it too) and I saw this article on ThoughtCatalog on common place books. “A common place book,” the article writes, is “a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits. The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking or whatever it is that you do.”

Wow. Because…well, I have been doing this for years. Even in middle school I can remember doing this: coping passages of books I liked, poems, and writing down other things I liked. Now, it actually has a name. I never called my collection of antedotes a ‘common place book.’ Matter of fact, I never called it anything, just my notebook. Inside this notebook I’d always hand write song lyrics, quotes, lists, general observations, notes, and attempts at poetry. It is not a journal/diary and I’ve never used it for that purpose–my journal is a separate thing altogether and kept in another notebook. I’ve always used moleskines for common placing because they’re inconspicuous (no one is looking over your shoulder while you’re writing in a small black book), sleek, and easily portable. The paper is high quality and doesn’t bleed through with gel pens, which is what I prefer to write with.

Down below I will show you pics of my current common place book. However, I want to make some distinctions here between a common place book and a journal/diary, because in my opinion they are not one in the same.

  1. Journals generally consist of narrative entries, may be typed, and can be kept online. Common place books are not narrative, are usually handwritten, and are not kept online.
  2. Entries are not random, but rather, placed with premeditation. A nice pen and an attempt at neat handwriting may be used, because chances are the writer will want to come back to it later.
  3. Common place books are not scrapbooks, which are usually made and created for an audience. A common place book is only for the reader, and the items inside put there for specific interest and use for the reader alone.

A couple of shots of my current common place book. I tried to pick some of my neater pages, because my cursive can be hard to read while I’m in the “moment”:

Some notes I was taking on sci-fi genres.

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A list of animal collective nouns. Why did I write this? I’m not sure.

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In this case, whole quotes copied out of a novel I was reading. This was Ethan Hawke’s “Ash Wednesday.” A very good book, btw.

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A list of albums I like for a music Tumblr I was thinking of doing. It never came to fruition.

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Some Radiohead lyrics I was too lazy to write, so I printed them out, cut and pasted them. Yup.

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Does anyone else out there have a common place book? Inquiring minds here would like to know…

[Note: It occurred to me just now that a Pinterest board is kinda the electronic equivalent of a common place book. I whole-heartedly agree with this.]

Now Accepting Review Requests!

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.

On the Invaluable Value of Notebooking

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

About that NaNoWriMo thing…

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.

The muse.

For me, the importance of music in my writing experiences can’t be stated enough. When I am sketching a character, my first question is often not what they look like, their age, or even what their name is. My first question, is usually “What would this character be listening to?” From there I get a mental picture (appearance, mannerisms, etc) and slowly begin to bring it into focus. With a character that listens to Miles Davis I may picture a sophisticated, artsy, urbane, hipster-kinda character. If they listen to Nine Inch Nails I may get an elusive, eccentric rebel. It all depends, essentially, on the power of a playlist.

Music helps me shape the plots of my stories as well. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve sat down to write and that song I’ve heard a million times will play on my iPad and I hear a certain line and think: THAT’S IT. I write it down and begin my planning from there. I will write that lyric down and use it to guide my plot. It’s like a movie playlist. A short story that I wrote recently began with a line from REM’s “Everybody Hurts.” Which is a great opener, by the way, because it leads me into questions that will be answered throughout the narrative. For example, why is this character hurting? Why do they feel everyone else is hurting along with them? And what experiences have they undergone in their life to have such a feeling?

Tomorrow I’m going to post sections of my playlist so you can see what kind of songs inspires me to write. Spotify is a godsend, man…

NaNoWriMo is here!

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With my announcement that I’ll be participating in this year’s National Novel Writing Month, I have a bit of a confession to make first. First, I am not writing a novel. Well, at least not in its purest, most traditional sense. What I will be writing is a group of interconnected short stories, with a central theme and group of characters throughout. As I began the planning for this project I realized early on that it wasn’t coming together as a novel. I also realized that as much as I loved my main character that I did not want to stick with her for the entire book.

My decision to tell a novel in short stories is fueled by my fascination with the human experience in general. The people you meet everyday all have a back story, a set of events that occurred that led them to encounter you at the particular place and time that you encountered them. How do human personalities develop? Surely our past shapes our experiences, but how? I want to tell the stories behind the people that my main character interacts with. As I begin this venture I am reminded of one of my favorite authors, Gloria Naylor, who also used this same technique in her novel, “The Women of Brewster Place.” It is indeed a novel, but if you look carefully at the subheading, Naylor calls her book “A Novel in Seven Stories.” Each of her seven main characters has a story to tell.

So, at midnight, I’ll begin writing. I have a ton of notes, a kick ass Spotify playlist, and plenty of coffee on hand to keep me company. I am sooooo ready to put pen to paper and slay this!