Tag Archives: books

Sunshine and Vampires: A Book Review

27 Aug

Sunshine By Robin McKinley

I discovered Audible.com at about the same time I learned I would no longer be taking the Metro North to work, but driving instead. In fact, the two may have had a corollary relationship.

Unfortunately, listening to the news was not an option– at least, not once I sickened of NPR’s ceaseless repetition. I’m sorry guys, but I just cannot listen to the same half hour news segment on the way to and from work…for five days in a row. I mean, from how many different angles can we examine the NYC mayoral primary?

Robbed of my choose-your-story options so thoughtfully provided by the NYT iPad app, I turned to Young Adult fiction. I figured that since I spend most of my free time on my own fiction, this could be good writing research. Right? Okay, whatever. I just love the thrill of a good plot. So sue me.

Listening to an audiobook is an interesting experience, not only because I can now eat while reading without any discernible difficulty. The voice of the reader makes such a difference; for example, listening to Tamora Peirce‘s full cast audio books was more like watching a play with many different actors whereas Sunshine‘s narratorLaural Merlington, became intrinsically entwined with the protagonist, Rae.

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Four Young Adult Books with Strong Female Leads

4 Feb

I’ve wanted to add book reviewing to my resume since my senior year of college, when I sent in a request for books to an editor at the SF Chronicle who visited our elective science fiction course at UCONN. Though he never responded to me and my plea for free books and a forum (preferably paid) to vent my non-expert opinions on trashy sci-fi novels went unanswered for many years, I now have the perfect platform for sharing my book knowledge: this illustrious blog. Take that, unresponsive editor.

As the one time winner of most books read over the summer in a middle school library contest, I am clearly an expert in Young Adult literature. Moreover, since I somehow failed to identify with male characters despite living in a word where the majority of main characters are male, most of my favorite books had strong lady leads. I’d like to note that by strong, I mean strongly written and complex.

Over the years, I’ve passed along my favorite childhood books to friends, read them over and over again, brought them with me to graduate school, and used them as foil for the terrible female-scrubbed YA books out there. But the time has come to share my knowledge with the rest of the world.

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5 Ways To Motivate Yourself to Write

7 Oct

It seems like I can’t turn around on the internet without running into a hilarious web comic that combines really bad illustrations with ridiculously ironic and over the top copy. Oh, and numbered lists that parody the “How To” articles that are all over the web. I could’t resist giving it a go, so here’s a hilarious-completely-out-of-character-for-my-blog post on 5 ironic tips to being a better writer complete with swearing and terrible illustrations.

I’ve pretty much always called myself a writer (I write this blog, don’t I?), and in high school I wrote all kinds of angsty poetry and short works about sad relationships.

But one might say that in college I hit my writing prime. Even though I stopped writing creative fiction, in between a very vibrant social life and hours spent reading I still found time to write hundreds of pages of academic essays about literature. While I doing so, I felt pretty comfortable calling myself a writer and an English major.

But now I’m in that awkward phase in my life where I can no longer call myself a writer if I don’t actually write something. I lost the drama filled perspective that motivated me to write in high school and I am no longer rewarded with the praise from professors that I sycophantically sought in college.

The uncomfortable realization that I wasn’t “A Writer”  anymore hit me shortly after graduation, and I decided it was time to DO something. That meant I needed to find some way to motivate myself into picking up a pen.

I read tons of “helpful” lists on the “internet” about finding the motivation to write. There were websites that email bombed me harder than Goodreads.com after I signed up for a virtual book club. (I’m still ignoring those emails.) Some people advised keeping calendars and awarding gold starts for good writing days. Others just write for the love of writing (I know, right?? Those jerks!)

But I found all of this advice didn’t work for ME, a completely under-motivated, idea-lacking, busy-with-other-things-like-TV-watching, wanna-be writer. So I’ve decided to compile my own list of motivational tips for my brethren:  people who identify as writers and are desperately looking for the motivation to write.

1. Don’t tell ANYONE when you start a new blog/novel/chapbook/comedy skit/screenplay/ webcast

There’s no better motivator than embarrassment, and trust me you WILL feel embarrassed if you tell your friends you’ve started a new project and then never finish it. Every couple weeks each and every person you’ve told will ask you, “So how’s that stream of consciousness novel from the perspective of an ant inside the anthill on your dresser coming?”

Rather than telling them you’re a LIAR or just a lazy promise breaker who overestimated your ability to complete a goal, you’ll simply nod feebly and mutter stuff about how the ant is about to find true love. Your friends will know you’re lying, but will be too polite to call you out.

You know what they’re really thinking, though. So before hanging with Curious Casey on Wednesday, you’ll spend hours Tuesday outlining your novel and getting some new pages down so you don’t sound like a complete douche.

Avoid this predicament by not letting anyone know when you’ve started a new project. In fact, why don’t you just stay inside your bedroom when you write so no one will even SUSPECT that you’ve started something new. You’ll avoid receiving any encouragement AND all that embarrassment that comes from picking up and dropping a new project, plus when you quit, no one else will know you’ve failed, allowing you to nurse that pathological fear of failure your ex-girlfriend always complained about.

2. Make goals you don’t intend to keep

This is an absolute must. If you’re like me, you need some external deadline to motivate you to write. So in a sad attempt to mimic a pressing deadline, make up an imaginary deadline for yourself. Some of my previous “deadlines:”

  1. Write one blog post every Tuesday
  2. Write one novel page a day
  3. Finish poetry book by end of August
  4. Start revising writing project by beginning of fall

Guess how many of these deadlines I managed to keep for longer than a month? If you answered none of them, you are correct, Sir.

Of course, you can’t really trick yourself into believing in a hard deadline since you know the only one who knows about the deadline is you—and you’re already very comfortable lying to yourself.

But that’s okay! Overcompensate by making these goals as lofty as possible! The constant shame of never meeting any of your exceptionally high goals will eventually make you so comfortable with failure that even your smaller milestones will be abandoned. Good luck with that!

3. Berate yourself for your failure to keep writing goals

My favorite motivator is internally humiliating myself for my failure to meet my writing goals. In graduate school, I experimented with escalating threat levels in order to get my pen moving:

Green: You can do it! Only five pages in eight hours!

Yellow: Okayyy so you’ve only written one page in six hours. The first page is the hardest! You can still do it!!

Orangey red: Okay okay okay. You don’t need to shower tonight. You can have one extra hour just DO IT.

Red: Listen B*tch, write three more pages NOW or you can’t go out with your friends Friday night

Maroon: If you don’t write this paper everyone will be disappointed in you. Your parents will stop loving you. Everyone will know that your highly organized façade was JUST THAT—A FANCY FRENCH WORD!

THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT: If you don’t write this paper they will kick you out of grad school and you will be a failure and everyone will feel bad for you. You will couch surf at your parents until you become so ashamed that you lie about having a job and end up traveling the streets and sleeping at Starbucks. This is where your life falls apart: With the failure to write this ONE PAPER.

At one point, the only way I could actually motivate myself to get shit done was by telling myself I would fail out of grad school and die if I didn’t. My feeble brain was too depressed by all the other vitriol to know that I was lying, so this is clearly the way to go for self-motivation.

4. Go to a coffee shop with free WiFi so you can “focus”

Coffee shops are filled with fancy hipsters and their old fashioned writing implements, so this must be the trick to good writing! Here’s the tip: set up shop in a local coffee mecca and buy yourself a cup of bottomless coffee. After 3 hours you’ll be tweaking harder than that creepy blonde kid from South Park. All that caffeine’s gotta kick your muse in gear, right?

While you’re busy suffering heart palpitations, try to listen in on the weird conversations around you. Not only will you soon garner the reputation of Weird Coffee Shop Eavesdropper, you’ll also waste hours of time that could be spent writing. Don’t worry though– you can pretend its research for “authentic dialogue”– because you haven’t been dialoging your whole life or anything.

Of course, make sure to sit in a prominent location so friends and acquaintances will come by and greet you. They may even sit down and chat, and you’ll get to feel productive and superior when you drop that you’re working on your novel.

All joking aside, going to coffee shops IS a great way to focus. It gets you away from all of those apartment distractions like free food and Internet. That’s why you should go to a cafe with free WiFi– if it was hard to avoid watching endless videos of adorable kittens on YouTube at home, you DEFINITELY won’t be distracted here.

5. Spend hours worrying about the formatting and projected page output for your blog/novel/chapbook/comedy skit/screenplay/ webcast

Everyone knows that the most important thing about writing is the number of pages in each chapter. Why else do people love The life of Pi? Clearly it’s because Yann Martel nailed the perfect formula for attaining the O list.

The only way you’ll be a famous writer is if you also learn the exact number of pages a young adult novel should be, and whether or not those pages are double spaced.

In fact, instead of writing you should probably spend hours researching page length on the Internet. All of those answers on Yahoo Questions that tell you page length doesn’t matter must be posted by stupid people, not experienced writers. So keep looking past page 12 of your Google search for the one answer written by Bob Nobody that says otherwise!

And there you have it, folks! Five awesome tips to get you on your writing journey. So what are you waiting for? Head to that coffee shop and get started on all of your writing goals!

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