Newbie, Apprentice, or Master Writer?

I’m not a newbie writer anymore.  I don’t even cringe as I say the words that used to scare me:  “I’m a writer.”  Nope, that’s ME!

But despite the people who tell me I’m a genius and are waiting breathlessly for my next book (yes, there are a few of them out there), I’m nowhere near a master.  I’m solidly in my apprenticeship, working and learning along the way.

Kristen Lamb blogged about this yesterday and gave permission to share.  Here’s our Jedi Master on the three stages of a writing career:

Pirate Code=Writing Rules. Clearer now? :)

The mark of a pro is they make whatever we want to do look easy. From running a business to playing guitar to wicked cool Kung Fu moves, masters rarely seem to even break a sweat. Same with authors. With the pros? The story flows, pulls us in, and appears seamless and effortless.

Many of us decided to become writers because we grew up loving books. Because good storytellers are masters of what they do, we can easily fall into a misguided notion that “writing is easy.” Granted there are a rare few exceptions, but most of us will go through three acts (stages) in this career if we stick it through.

Act One—The Neophyte

This is when we are brand new. We’ve never read a craft book and the words flow. We never run out of words to put on a page because we are like a kid banging away on a piano having fun and making up “music.” We aren’t held back or hindered by any structure or rules and we have amazing energy and passion.

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 8.32.50 AM

Woodleywonderworks Flikr Creative Commons

 

But then we go to our first critique and hear words like “POV” and “narrative structure.” We learn that maybe we don’t know as much as we think we do and that we need to do some training. We also finally understand why so many famous authors drank…a lot.

Act Two—The Apprentice

The Apprentice Phase comes next. This is where we might read craft books, take classes, go to conferences and listen to lectures. During the early parts of this phase, books likely will no longer be fun. Neither will movies. In fact, most of your family will likely ban you from “Movie Night.” Everything now becomes part of our training. We no longer look at stories the same way.

The apprentice phase is tough, and for many of us, it takes the all the fun out of writing. The apprentice phase is our Act II. It’s the looooongest, but filled with the most growth and change. It’s the span of suck before the breakthrough.

I’ve studied other forms of martial arts, but I am relatively new to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Right now I am in the span of SUUUUUCK. When I started as a neophyte, I “seemed” to do better because I just muscled my way around on the ground and being naturally strong? It worked…against an equally green opponent.

Moments before Kristen gets her tail kicked….

Moments before Kristen gets her tail kicked….

 

But it also wore me out and gave me more than a fair share of injuries. I had to learn technique. Technique looks awesome when Coach does it. It looks easy on theYouTube videos.

When I do it? Eh…not pretty and NOT easy.

Right now, I’m losing most of…ok, all of my rounds, which is tough on the ego but easier on the joints. I’m focusing more on “rules”, finesse and drilling the basics because I know that in time? It will pay off. Right now is NOT the time for me to try and be “creative.” There is also NO substitute for time on the mat.

Same with writing. Many shy away from craft books because they fear “rules” will ruin their creativity. Truth? They will, but only for a little while ;) .

Eventually we realize that rules were made to be broken. BUT, the difference between the artist and the hack is that the artist knows the rules and thus HOW to break them and WHY and WHEN. We start to see rules as tools.

As we move through The Apprentice Phase and we train ourselves to execute all these moves together—POV, structure, conflict, tension, setting, description, dialogue, plot arc, character arc—it eventually becomes easier. In fact, a good sign we are at the latter part of the apprentice phase is when the rules become so ingrained we rarely think about them.

We just fight write.

We’ve read so much fiction, watched (and studied) so many movies, read so many craft books, heard so many lectures, and practiced so much writing that all the “rules” are now becoming instinct and, by feel, we are starting to know where and how to bend, break or ignore them.

Like anything, there is NO substitute for DOING. Watching Ronda Rousey videos is a good idea for understanding ground-fighting, but it can’t take the place of mat time. Reading, taking classes, studying cannot replace writing crap until we don’t write crap.

At the end of the apprentice phase, writing is now starting to become fun again, much like it was in the beginning when we were banging away on the piano keyboard. Like the fighter who instinctively knows to arm bar an opponent without conscious thought, we now find more and more of the “right” words and timing without bursting brain cells.

The trick is sticking it through the apprentice phase long enough to ingrain the fundamentals into the subconscious.

Master

This is where we all want to be. In fact, we all want this on Day One, but sadly, I believe this Day One Master is reserved for only a handful of literary savants. Mastery is when we return to that childlike beginning. We write with abandon and joy and, since the elements of fiction are now part of our DNA, our literary marrow, what we produce isn’t the off-key clanging of a neophyte, it’s actually a real story worth reading. Granted, it isn’t all kittens and rainbows. Masters have a lot of pressure to be perpetual geniuses.

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 8.36.54 AM

Portrait by Yosuf Karsh via Wikimedia Creative Commons

I believe most of us, if we stick to this long enough, will always be vacillating between the Advanced Apprentice Phase and the Mastery Phase. If we choose to try a totally new genre, we might even be back to Neophyte (though this will pass more quickly than the first time).

We have to to keep growing. The best writers still pick up craft books, refresh themselves in certain areas, read other authors they enjoy and admire to see if they can grow in some new area. Masters seek to always add new and fresh elements to the fiction.

The key to doing well in this business is to:

1. Embrace the Day of Small Beginnings—Starting is often the hardest part. Enjoy being new. Enjoy that feeling because you will reconnect with it later because you recognize it.

2. Understand We All Have an Apprentice Phase—We will all be Early, Intermediate, then Advanced Apprentices. How quickly we move through these will be dictated by dedication, hard work and, to a degree, natural talent.

3. No One Begins as a Master and Few Remain Permanent Masters—Every New York Times Best-Selling Author was once a newbie, too. When we understand this career has a process, it’s easier to lighten up and give ourselves permission to be imperfect, to not know everything. Many writers get discouraged and give up too soon because they don’t understand there is a process, and they believe they should be “Masters” right away.

Hey, I did.

We need to give ourselves permission to grow. If we love and respect our craft, we will always be learning, so we will continue to dip back into “Apprentice” to refine our art even further.

Does this make you feel better to know this career has a process? Are you in the Act II span of suck and getting weary? What are you doing to remain focused? Which part has you the most discouraged? Write with the abandon of the Neophyte then edit with the eyes of an Advanced Apprentice or Master ;) .

Back to Jen now:

My Neophyte phase is well behind me and I’m solidly working my way out of the SUUUUCK part of the Apprenticeship.  Some storytelling skills are ingrained deeply and flow out of my fingers, others put up a fight.  But it’s so nice to know I’m not alone, and to be learning and progressing with each story I write.  Thanks, Kristen!

What about you?  Where are you in your writing career?  Leave a comment below and share your journey!

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The Beauty of a Woman: Bring on Those Wrinkles!

I see my mother when I look in the mirror. The line of my jaw, the way my eyelids crease,  the bump on the bridge of my nose. But I especially see her when I’m tired – when my skin is sagging and flat and my brow is wrinkled. I think, ohhh, I look old.

Mom at 79, with daughter (me), granddaughter & great-granddaughter

Mom last year, with daughter (me), granddaughter & great-granddaughter

And yet when I get to see my mother in person (about twice a year since we’re 2,000 miles apart), I see beauty. Yes, at 79 years and 10 months old, she definitely has wrinkles. And age spots. And she’s not very tall anymore. But she is strong and intelligent and her eyes can sparkle with fun.

All my growing up, Mom worked:  at an office job, at home, with the horses and other livestock. I’d try to bury myself in a book after my chores were done and she’d call me out to help with something. In later years, we’d talk on the phone and about 10 pm she’d mention she had to hang up so she could finish painting a room or installing a light fixture. Even now, I feel guilty sitting around reading if another adult walks through the room!

Now Mom actively gardens almost two acres by herself. She could use some help with the mundane hard labor but has a hard time finding someone who “knows how to work.” She offers a certain amount per hour with the possibility of doubling it if they can keep up with her.  So far, whether they’re 18 or 30, they can’t.

Heck with those youngsters – I’ve got 25 years on my mother and I can’t keep up with her!

Mom is very self-contained, enjoying a good time with a few friends, but also quite content to spend days in her garden without seeing anyone. She still builds bookcases and outdoor sheds, fixes the dog/deer fencing, digs out the pond. We kids breathed a collective sigh of relief when she decided she really didn’t need to do roof repairs herself anymore.

Like most seniors, she grumbles about government and young people both, and she still worries about her adult children and grandchildren. But from her Social Security, she donates to veterans’ organizations and takes food and clothing to people in need.

Mom’s not my only role model for aging with strength and grace.

Sister B's whole face is like this!   (Image via Flickr, cc license)

Sister B’s whole face is like this!
(Image via Flickr, cc license)

I’ve worked with someone a few times in the temple who has far more wrinkles than Mom. Sister B is about 92 and her face looks like a Shar Pei. But she has the kindest, most loving eyes I have ever seen. One time I told her, “I want to be you when I grow up.” She smiled, looked around the temple, and said, “You will be if you keep coming here.”

I wish I had a picture of Sister B for you, but her image in my head is strong. It doesn’t matter that her skin is not dewy and young, that she’s slightly hunched over or that her bones feel fragile. Her spirit is beautiful and it shines in her face.

I think the only people who have naturally smooth, youthful faces when they’re old are the silly ones who have sailed through life with no thought. You don’t grow spiritually, emotionally, or any other way without challenges.  Wrinkles are simply a badge of the years you’ve spent loving and laughing and crying and learning.

Mom & Dad, 2009

Mom & Dad, 2009

So when I look in the mirror, it’s not my gravity-laden skin I see now. I look for loving eyes, for a sparkle of fun, for strength in my muscles and my character. I want to see Mom in my reflection. I’m on my way to being her when I grow up.

First, what’s your take on wrinkles and other aspects of aging?  And are you still deciding what you want to be when you “grow up?”

boaw-logo-2015-originalSecond, this post is part of The Beauty of a Woman Blogfest 2015.  Click here to visit the main site and find other wonderful blogs about a woman’s true beauty!

Posted in Deep Thoughts, Home & Family, TAKE JOY! | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

I Need Some Whitespace in My Life

Busy, Busy, Busy! (via Flikr, cc license)

Busy, Busy, Busy!
(via Flikr, cc license)

Too much to do, too little time, too many deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise. 

When things are so jammed up, it doesn’t take much to send you over the edge.  My mother thinks I don’t know this, but I do – it’s just that it’s hard to keep it from happening. 

I’ll blog more about this later for Take Joy, but for now, here’s a piece I loved from Randy Ingermanson’s newsletter –  “stolen” with permission.

Whitespace in Your Life

Picture this scenario: You go to the refrigerator to get a jug of milk. Should be simple, right? What could go wrong?

The refrigerator is packed. The milk is right there in front on the top shelf, wedged in between a pint of cottage cheese and some bottles of apple juice.

You’re holding a glass in one hand and you reach up with the other to grab the milk.

It’s wedged in tight. You jiggle it a little bit and realize that you really need to put down the glass and use both hands to unpack things.

You reach to put the glass down and … one of the juice bottles pops off the shelf. You make a mad grab for it. It slips away from you. You try again. It bounces off the vegetable bin. You try again. It smashes onto the tile floor.

Glass and juice puddle all over the floor and now you’ve got a mess that must be cleaned up right away.

What went wrong here?

You got careless. It’s probably appropriate to yell at yourself for being careless.

But your carelessness mattered because you were trying to do a task with no margin for error.

Had there been a little margin in the packing on the shelf, your small error wouldn’t have caused a major mess.

Margins matter. Books have a margin that makes them more readable and nice to look at. And the outer margin of a printed book helps protect again errors in cutting the paper.

Another word for margins is whitespace. Your books need whitespace.

So does your life.

A little whitespace on the refrigerator shelf makes it much easier to take things out. It also makes it easier to find things in the back of the shelf.

When you think about whitespace in your life, you can see all kinds of places where it’s crucial. Not just your physical space, but also your time, your money, and your energy.

When your schedule is so packed that you have absolutely no extra time in your life, an unplanned trip to the mechanic can have ripple effects that wreck your day, then your week, and then your month. Your schedule needs whitespace.

When your financial situation is so precarious that you’ve maxed out your credit cards, that unplanned trip to the mechanic can leave you without a car and without a way to pay for repairs. Your finances need whitespace.

When you’re so exhausted that you can barely drag out of bed in the morning or do your duties, an unplanned bout with a cold virus can knock you out. Your energy level needs whitespace.

Your life needs whitespace. So does mine. So does everybody’s.

Knowing that you need whitespace won’t magically make it appear. There isn’t any whitespace wand you can wave.

The concept of whitespace is just a mirror you can use to help you see when you have a potential problem that could come crashing down on you.

The first step in solving a problem is knowing it’s there.

Right now, my office needs some whitespace. The stack of stuff on the floor in the corner keeps growing. It doesn’t keep me from closing the door. Not yet, anyway. But it’s a warning signal. By admitting to myself that my office floor needs whitespace, I have a real chance at solving the problem.

And what about you? What area in your life has the least whitespace right now? How bad is it? What small error could make things go massively wrong?

What about you?  Do you have tips or tales to share in the comments? 

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 11,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.
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Put a Book in the Hands of a Child

Internatl Book Giving DayFebruary 14th isn’t just Valentine’s Day, it’s International Book Giving Day!

This is the third year for the holiday, and the goal is to get books into the hands of as many children as possible.  And surely that’s something we can all help with!

First, if you aren’t familiar with International Book Giving Day (I wasn’t), here are some ideas:

Internatl Book Giving Day Bookmark1. Give a Book to a Friend or Relative.

Celebrate International Book Giving Day by giving a child a new, used or borrowed book.

2. Leave a Book in a Waiting Room or Lobby.

Choose a waiting room where kids are stuck waiting and there are few to no good books available. Purchase a good book, and deposit your book covertly or overtly in your waiting room of choice. The goal here is to spread the love of reading to kids, so choose a fun book, nothing controversial.

3. Donate a Book.
Wrap up a box of children’s books that your kids have outgrown and get them in the hands of children who could really use a book or two. Donate your books to your local second hand store, library, children’s hospital, or shelter. You could also donate your books to an organization working within the U.S., such as First Book, Reading is Fundamental or Reach Out and Read.  If you want to go international to get books in the hands of kids, try Books for Africa,  Room to Read or Book Aid International.

Internatl Book Giving Day BookplateBut Wait . . . There are Extra Goodies!

Generous picture book artists  Anna Walker and Gus Gordon have designed a bookmark and bookplate for International Book Giving Day 2015.  Click on each picture to download the pdf, then print off a few and tuck them into the books you’re sharing!

Next, head over to BookGivingDay.org to put your name on the participant list.  They’ve also got any other information you might be looking for.  Oh – and don’t forget to tweet (#giveabook) or share on Facebook!

Now what am I going to do on February 14th?  Well, I l-o-v-e the idea of surprising an unsuspecting child with a book of his or her own!  So I’m going to take a few gently-used children’s books to a health clinic in the city to do just that.  I think I’ll also give a copy of Through the Shimmer of Time to my local library, plus leave a copy of Shimmer in the library for a child to take home.  Hmm . . . I’ll have to figure out how to do that without it getting re-shelved!

What about you? How will YOU put a book in the hands of a child?

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TAKE JOY: Staying in the Moment

I hate washing dishes!

I hate washing dishes!

No, that’s not a picture of my kitchen!  But anyone who knows me knows that I hate washing dishes. I do it when I must, but I’d much rather watch tv or read a book after dinner. While I love getting up to a clean kitchen in the morning, it never seems worth it the night before.

So there I was, scrubbing the previous night’s pans and thinking about all the other things I could be doing. Writing. Organizing my office. Loafing on the couch with a book! Grumbling doesn’t help, I told myself. So my mind wandered to what was for dinner, how to solve a plot problem in Rescue, the fact that I needed to go to the bank for my son, and on and on.  You know, all the side-effects of a too-busy brain.

15704086094_49d0088bf6_z

There were more on the bird feeder above!

And then a cardinal flew past the window. I watched him peck at the bird seed and I smiled as I became aware of my surroundings.

The sun shone gloriously on that snow-covered day. Chickadees, nuthatches and cardinals lunched until a blue jay bullied his way in. Inside, the soapy dishwater was warm and smooth on my hands. I had a rack full of gleaming pans, clear counters, and a sense of accomplishment. The refrigerator hummed in the daytime quiet of the house and I had a great day ahead of me.

I’m not particularly good at staying in the moment, at being present. “Mindfulness”, if you will.  I think too much and don’t take time to feel, to be truly aware of what I am doing. But when I do, the joy comes.

16140423229_74ba88e2c5_zThere is pleasure in doing a task, no matter how monotonous, and it’s more than simply crossing something off the to-do list. If we can stay aware of the sensory feelings – the touch of water, the airiness of the bubbles, the pressure of our fingers – it slows us down and helps us stay in the moment. It doesn’t matter if it’s mowing the lawn, raking leaves, scrubbing the floor, or (like me) washing dishes.  In some mysterious way, staying in the moment helps cultivate joy.

I’m not an expert. I struggle to turn down the activity level of my brain and focus on what I’m doing. But I’m going to make this my effort to Take Joy this week, and I’ll let you know how I do.

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Inseparable Partners: Joy and Gratitude

We’ve heard it a million times: “Count your blessings.”

Count Blessings Mousepad AmazonSometimes it’s said with a wry smile – “Count your blessings – things could be worse!”

Sometimes it’s given as advice, as if being grateful for what we have will magically take away all our worries.

Sometimes we roll our eyes and try not to hit the person who said it just carry on.

But sometimes we take it into our hearts and are truly thankful for what we’ve been given.  And with that gratitude comes joy.

If someone feels joy without being grateful, isn’t that 2310969291_10a0933517_zreally just a moment of pleasure? Climbing a mountain on a sunny day, or feeling the wind rush as you ski down a smooth, snowy slope, or warming yourself by a blazing fire – those are very pleasurable sensations, but without gratitude for the sunshine or your body’s physical ability, it isn’t true joy . . . at least not the joy that we’re talking about, the joy that permeates the soul.

When you combine the warmth of the sun, the beauty of mountain flowers, or the view from the peak with thanks to God for providing them, that’s when He fills you with joy.

15286173374_592d6d8827_zYou can shovel a foot of snow, heart pounding and sweat freezing, and then toast yourself in front of the fire until you’ve recovered. You’ve done your chore and now you’re warm, and you’re glad. But if you add a gratitude for the beauty of the snow, the health to do the shoveling, and the fact that you even have a fireplace – that’s when your soul feels joy, not just satisfaction or relief.

Actually, I think it’s more than just gratitude bringing joy – I think true joy brings gratitude as well.

13609536_dc9c473c26_oThere are moments when we are blessed with a sense of joy, when warmth and contentment fill our beings. For me, I can’t help but be grateful in those moments for all that surrounds me. For the sunshine or snow or rain, for a kitchen to cook in, for a warm house with soft beds and plenty of blankets, for the happy noise my guys make when they come home. For birds to feed and stories to write and friends to visit.

Joy and gratitude can’t be separated – what are you grateful for as you Take Joy?

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TBR Pile Challenge: The Maze Runner


Oh, the agony!  James Dashner’s The Maze Runner stared at me for three days before I was allowed to read it.  It was finally my turn at the library, so I picked it up – but because it was part of my “2015 TBR Pile Challenge,” I couldn’t start it until the new year!

This YA dystopian story has a unique premise: teenage boys have been sent one by one to an area where necessities are provided for them and they govern themselves, but they’re not only surrounded by a maze with deadly creatures, their memories have been wiped and they know nothing about their past except their names.  Runners are sent out daily to explore the maze (which keeps changing) to find a way out.

The first third of the book actually felt a bit slow to me.  It’s not as tightly written as The Hunger Games and I felt like we spent too much time in Thomas’s head as he wondered what was going on.  (I actually put Maze Runner down for a while to go back to a very different book set in Africa – Milele Safari, which I’ll review later.)

Once Thomas got past figuring out how the teens had their community set up and what the dangers were, the story picked up.  He started trying to work out the problems, pushing the boundaries, and both the tension and pace rose.  It led to an intriguing resolution, which I can’t even tell you about without spoilers!  Aarrgghh!  Suffice it to say that the kids discover the set-up and are in more danger than ever, leading to the rest of the series.

I’ll give it 3-1/2 stars – I liked it and I’ll probably watch the movie now and compare, but I don’t know if I’ll read the sequels.  I consider the book okay for younger teens – the characters have created their own swear words so there’s no obscenities in the dialogue, and the fantasy violence isn’t too outrageous.

Have you read The Maze Runner?  What did you think?  And how would you compare the movie?

Posted in Book Reviews & Suggestions | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My New Year’s Word is …

I’ve already regaled you with why I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions anymore – are you ready for why I didn’t pick “balance” as my word for 2015?

Reason #1: I’m too serious. Seriously!

Reason #2: I spend too much time thinking.

The Thinker, RodinI’m always thinking of what’s coming up: What I’m cooking for dinner, what errands I need to run, what chores are waiting, what I’m going to blog about or what’s the next scene I’m writing in Shimmer 2.

I think of how my children are doing (being a parent to adults is a whole nuther ballgame) and wonder what I can do to help. And wonder if I’m doing too much, poking my nose in where it doesn’t belong anymore.

Scriptures, Book of Mormon, Bible

Image courtesy of LDS Media Library

I study scriptures and try to figure out how to apply them in my life, which leads me to thinking about changes and sorting out what to do: what’s right vs. what’s just in the front of my mind.  I wonder if the Lord is pleased with how I’m living my life, if I’m spending too much time and energy on books and if they’re even the books I should be writing.

And so I’m always thinking about things – things I want to do, things I need to do, things I ought to have done.

And yet . . .

I am blessed in innumerable ways. With family whom I love dearly, with more than basic food and shelter, with time and freedom and health. And especially with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Shouldn’t someone be able to see the joy of my life in my face? Shouldn’t I be more consistently aware of it?

dc69Ldqc9Unfortunately, because I’m focused on what I have to do or what’s coming up, several things happen. First, unless I’m in a relaxed situation not thinking about any of that, nobody meeting me would think I’m particularly happy. The concerns show on my face, not the good things. Second, I don’t feel the joy that I ought to very often.

So while pondering my word for the new year, these thoughts have taken precedence. Instead of “Balance,” I’m choosing Joy.

Joy by itself can have several connotations: happiness, delight, momentary pleasure. If I link Joy with rejoice, it brings a deeper meaning to mind – a deep and abiding feeling that permeates the soul.

More specifically,

I’m choosing to “Take Joy!

I don’t want to just Have Joy – that sounds like I’m waiting for someone else to drop it in my lap.

I don’t need to Find Joy – Joy is already here.

But “Take Joy” is an active phrase, something that puts the responsibility on me to reach out and grasp it.

Photo by Bruce Robertson

Photo by Bruce Robertson

There is much joy in my life. I have a solid, loving marriage and three children who have grown into awesome young adults.   I have a great son-in-law and time to spend with the Cutest Granddaughter in the World. I have a supportive husband who works hard at his job to bless us with the necessities of life – a warm house, a choice of food to eat, reliable cars, and new clothes once in a while. Not only that, but he supports me in my writing instead of expecting me to earn a steady paycheck.  I have enough of a yard to let me grow fresh vegetables, flowers that make me smile, and a huge backyard maple from which I can feed my little bird friends. I have a mother and brother and sister whom I don’t get to see much, but with whom I share loving relationships.

So this year, 2015, I’m going to Take Joy.

  • I will make a point of stopping to realize the joy in a particular moment.
  • I will not only count my blessings, but dig deeper into them.
  • I will try to live a bit more in the moment and realize the joy that moment contains.

And I will share that journey with you. I’m sure I will have ups and downs, joyful moments intermixed with days I forget about it.  I’m also sure I’m not the only one who has many blessings but doesn’t stop to acknowledge the joy.  And I know that since I’m a master at letting good intentions slide, blogging about Taking Joy will keep me from forgetting about it by February!

What about you? Do you already Take Joy? Do you have a different word to guide your life this year? Please share in the comments – enquiring minds want to know! 

 

 

 

Posted in Deep Thoughts, TAKE JOY! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

No 2015 New Year’s Resolutions for Me!

Image: "fanginhoon" via Freeimages.com

Credit: “fanginhoon” via Freeimages.com

I love lists, and always have.  I love goals, and always have.  Which means that I grew up thinking New Year’s Resolutions must have been created with me in mind.  (The phrase “it’s all about me” was also probably created with me in mind!)

I don’t think I ever included reading books in my childhood resolutions because I read constantly anyway, but my lists did have things like Earn Girl Scout Badges and Win 1st or 2nd at Horse Shows. As a young adult, I included things like Lose 10 Pounds and Keep a Journal. (Hmm, I’m still trying to do those!) Parenting school-age children, my goals were Keep School Papers Organized and Have Family Home Evening Weekly.

Last year made a change. I realized that because I’m easily motivated, I’m setting goals like these all through the year – New Year’s Resolutions were just another occasion to set new goals. So for 2014, I thought I’d join the people choosing a word to focus on for the year.

The problem is that by February, I had forgotten all about it – to the point that I don’t even remember what my word was! I went on setting and re-setting short-term goals through the year: keep up with my homework and finish the semester (and graduate!); publish Through the Shimmer of Time; lose some weight, or at least not gain any.

I spent the first half of the year scrambling, as I had done the last two years as a “mature” college student. After graduation, I was still scrambling – I got Shimmer out, made two back-to-back long trips, and found out just how much work it is to promote an indie book. So as December rolled around, I thought I had my word for next year:

“BALANCE”

Elisabetta Preziosa BB

E. Preziosa, 2012 Olympics via Wikimedia Commons  (I’ll bet she could balance anything!)

I need balance in my life. I have responsibilities as well as things that feed my soul, and I need to find time for all of them without feeling like I’m scrambling. Scrambling isn’t fun! So BALANCE seemed like a really good fit:  something that, if I focus on it, would make a huge difference in my life. And I could even blog about it – double points!

And then another word wormed its way into my mind, and BALANCE seems to have wiggled out the window. Not completely, because I think that this new word will bring balance for me in the process. But Balance began to feel like a to-do list – just one more thing to make sure I’m doing.

So what’s my new word for 2015?

Image via clipartbest.com

I’m not telling!

At least, not until next week. *evil grin*  Stay tuned for the big reveal on New Year’s Day, and then join me on the journey!

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2015 TBR Pile Challenge

Too Many Books! (photo by "jsmidt," freeimages.com)

Too Many Books!
(photo by “jsmidt,” freeimages.com)

I’ve never included reading goals in my new year’s resolutions because I read voraciously anyway. (Which is how I know words like voraciously.)  And I’ve never followed a reading list challenge because I like to read what I’m in the mood for at the time. I also like re-reading books.

I’ve seen some interesting reading challenges, though. One started as a “Read England” challenge and spawned a “Read America” challenge, the idea being to read a book set in each English county or American state.

I might do that someday, but the one that caught my eye for right now is one that focuses on my TBR Pile. For the uninitiated, TBR means “To Be Read,” and most readaholics have full e-readers and piles of unread print books.  “So many books, so little time” seems to be our slogan.

My bookcases are often double-stacked – no surprise there – but I used to have a particular shelf for books I hadn’t read yet, usually bought on sale or at a used bookstore or from the Friends of the Library. Like Lays Potato Chips, I can’t buy just one! My TBR shelf grew into two, then three, now all double-stacked. We won’t mention various piles on the floor.

And then I got a Kindle for Christmas a year or two ago.  Do you know how hard it is to resist books at $1.99?  I read the sample on Amazon to make sure the writing is decent and then it’s oh-so-easy to click BUY.  Voila! A shiny new e-book just waiting to be read.

Right now, the new book I downloaded just yesterday is waiting with about a hundred others.  Needless to say, when I saw a challenge that would focus on my ever-growing book list, I jumped on board.

2015tbrbuttonThe idea of Roof Beam Reader’s TBR Pile Challenge is that you pick 12 books from your TBR list which you will read in the 12 months of 2015. You choose two books as alternates “just in case one or two of the books end up in the ‘can’t get through’ pile.”

Hmm . . . books I’ve been wanting to read, most of which I have – I can do this!

So I started my list, balancing out some classics (that I should have read long ago but never did) with some YA and Middle Grade that I’ve missed, plus some that I’ve bought and just haven’t gotten to. Plus a few more that the library will happily provide.  I ended up with about 20 that are calling to me now, and cut those down to this final list:

  1. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
  2. Silk Road – Colin Falconer
  3. Pride of Lions – Morgan Llywelyn
  4. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  5. Persuasion – Jane Austen
  6. To Say Nothing of the Dog – Connie Willis
  7. Red – Kait Nolan
  8. The Maze Runner – James Dashner (completed 1/6/15)
  9. Anne of Green Gables – Lucy Maud Montgomery
  10. Percy Jackson & the Olympians series (at least two) – Rick Riordan
  11. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress – Rhoda Janzen
  12. Pentecost – J. F. Penn
  13. The Baker’s Daughter – Sarah McCoy
  14. The Agony and the Ecstasy – Irving Stone

I think the last two are my alternates, but I reserve the right to read any twelve of the fourteen that I happen to be in the mood for!  And to be honest, I think my goal is to read all of them anyway.  :)

As part of the challenge, I’ll be reviewing these on Amazon/Goodreads and probably blogging about them too.  When a review is up, I’ll link to it here. (EDITED TO ADD:  if the title has a link, click it to see my review.)

So what’s on your TBR list? And are you interested in the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge?

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Reviews & Suggestions, Goals | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments