Blog Titles and Other Thoughts

Dandelion clock

Random picture. We can pretend it means that time is ephemeral and fleeting, like dandelion fluff held aloft in the breeze. But really, I just thought it looked cool.

Do you ever wonder what meaning or story a blog title may have? Most titles I guess are straightforward, like “So and So Writes!” or “Books Books Books!” or “How To ___.” But, there are those other ones (you know what I mean, I’m sure) that are either titled or domain-named (can that be a verb?) kinda randomly. Or, am I the only one that wonders about these things? Like I’m reaching to find a story where none really exists.

At any rate, I started thinking about bloggery things, and inevitably, blog titles/names since I chatted with a group of lovely writer friends last night about blogs.*

Previously, my blog title was simply, “Reading Makes Me Happy.” (In fact, some wordpress correspondence still shows up that way, which kinda throws me.) Obviously, I love books, I love reading, so BAM! Easy title! (My focus quote was: “I read to find a ladder to heaven.” W. Strieber.)

Well, sometime last year I had an epiphany, and I won’t go into details about it here (feel free to click on that link, though :)), but I realized that my unacknowledged dreams of writing a book and being a published author was in fact attainable, and it was only seemingly unattainable because I made it so. I did nothing to get me toward writing a novel, so why was I surprised that “gasp! I didn’t have a written novel, and I never will, and this will never happen for me.” *wonk, wonk*

All I needed to do was break down my dream (published author) into a more manageable goal (write novels), and break down the action steps to get me to that goal (develop and hone my writing skills, find a feedback/support group, read a lot, etc). With a paythebills job (sometimes, two!), balancing my goals was sometimes tricky, but I never let the “I have no TIME!” be an excuse for me to fall back on. (I have the same 24-hours that Edison, Einstein, and all those guys had! Surely I can “find the time” to write a book!)

“Find solutions, not excuses” is a mantra I embrace, and I’m also someone who responds well to accountability exercises and goal setting. (It’s the Achiever in me.) I wanted to make the most of the time that I have been given, and not just impulsively do things in the moment. I wanted to really create value in the now that I have. Thus the title, “Redeeming the Time.” (Also, it sounds pretty.) 🙂

“Redeeming the time” reminds me to focus on the things that I do control, like working on the craft of novel writing, so that I can eventually see my dream realized. It also reminds me to simplify and let go of those things that distract me from my goals. Sometimes it’s tough, but I don’t count it as a sacrifice. At this point, I find I feel freer because I’m not owned by other time-wasters. I have more ownership and control of my time, and guard that time zealously.

With all that said, I really want to incorporate reading back into my writing schedule, and even though I’ve said that I don’t really do book reviews, I at least want to put a few in rotation. (I plan on posting a book review page soon). Now, the reviews won’t be as fancy or engaging as most out there, but like this blog, it’s mainly just to keep me accountable to reading all the beautiful stories that find themselves in my mailbox or inbox. If my love for a book inspires someone to go out and read it, well, I’ll look at it as a bonus!

Plus, it’s a shame to get ARCs or egalleys and not give at least a little pre-release blurb about the book. Heck, even sharing a “new to me” title would be delightful. Great stories are meant to be shared and loved. The writers who wrote those stories should know that their sweat, tears, and sleepless nights have created worlds for readers to live in.

For a little while, both the reader and writer share the same dreamspace, and that is an experience worth cultivating.

So Tell Me: Any story behind your blog title? Do you like or care when someone blogs (non-spoiler-y) book reviews?

*The other friends I chatted with were:

Mail Surprises and Thanks!

I interrupt my writing time to share the pleasant surprise my mail(wo)man just delivered to me: ARCs of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor, and Putting Makeup on Dead People, by Jennifer Violi.

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HUGE HUGS and SQUEES and THANK YOUS to my lovely friend, Carol for her thoughtful gift!

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Ok, now back to my writing cave ^_^

This Past Week…

A lot of random things popped up all in the same week that I thought were quite memorable, so I thought to share some of these snippets. I know that normal weeks begin with Sunday and end with Saturday, but I have the privilege of not working a set schedule, thanks to my paythebills job, and Tuesdays generally mark the beginning of my “weekend.” So, without further ado…

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Thanks for lending me the book, Kayla! Also, I think the cover has changed since this ARC, so don't be confused!

I spent last Tuesday (and into Wednesday) immersed in other worlds, namely, Fran Billingsley’s Chime and (the ARC of) Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

Both of these stories were incredibly written and beautifully characterized. I wanted to wrap the words around me, and live in these worlds. Seriously, these books are what I aspire to as a writer. Unfortunately, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is not available until this fall, but Chime is available now!

I unfortunately missed out on a chat that writerly friends of mine were hosting Wednesday night, but here is the archive of that chat. I think we decided to make it a monthly chat, on the second Thursday of each month.

The next few days after that, fueled by insomnia, caffeine, and the raging desire to work on something fun, I fleshed out a chapter of a story (the snippets of which I wrote back in January) and continued to sketch out “next chapter plots.” I was so proud of myself, this song played in my head all day Friday (thanks to my awesome twitter friend, Michele Shaw, aka @veertothewrite, for tweeting me this link, so I can share the madness with you all):

(You’re welcome.)

Then, thanks to my lovely friend, Carol, I got these books…

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Carol, next in line!

…signed by John Green! (Please visit her blog post, here, where she also shares The Man in Truck incident, and her experiences at WisCon.)

Though I loved getting all three of those books signed, I really appreciated listening to what he had to say about the relationship of the reader and writer, and what he felt was his responsibility as a writer to produce stories that were both helpful and beautiful. Also, we got to hear bits from his new book, the title of which will be released next week. (UPDATE: John Green has announced that the new book’s title is The Fault in Our Stars. He will be signing all pre-ordered copies! Go order one today!)  The book itself comes out in nine months, and from what I heard, I will DEFINITELY be lining up to buy a copy (which will hopefully be signed, too, one day!)(UPDATE#2: Since JG announced he would be signing pre-ordered copies, mine is already signed, but I don’t mind getting it signed again!) 😀

Throughout the week, too, I accrued a pile of titles to be read, even though I promised myself that I would only get one book at a time. What can I say? I’m a book junkie.

So, (thanks to my library), I’m currently reading Julie Halpern’s Don’t Stop Now and Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys (via audiobook. What an efficient reader I am! ^_^). Also in my special library bag (what, you don’t have one?), I have:

  • The Lake, by Banana Yoshimoto
  • The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood (audiobook)
  • Claire de Lune, by Christine Johnston
  • Rot and Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry

Actually, the last two were because of the galleys waiting for me in my inbox. Thanks to Galley Grab, I have their sequels (Nocturne and Dust and Decay, respectively), along with Wildefire, by Karsten Knight, The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann, and Fury, by Elizabeth Miles. (I don’t usually do book reviews on this blog, but I will pass along titles of books I thought were AMAZING! *coughcoughdaughterofsmokeandbonecoughcough*)

So that was my week (which, if you minus the John Green thing, and add a little more insecurity tugging at my “I Can Do This” exterior, was pretty much a typical week).

What Have You Been Up To??

In Honor of This Year’s Banned Books Week…Speaking Loudly for Speak

Cover of "Speak"

Cover of Speak

CENSORSHIP Silences

I’m not here to decry Censorship, even though I am vehemently against it.  It’s such a huge and multi-faceted debate, and even now, my mind is too unsettled (and maybe too inferior) to put into words all the random thoughts that are pinging around in there involving the big and abstract concept of Censorship.

So, instead of talking about Censorship, or even about the much-celebrated “Banned Books Week,” I will just react to the Twitter and Blogging buzz that surrounded Laurie Halse Anderson’s book, Speak this past week.  Basically, Dr. Wesley Scroggins wrote to the School Board of Republic, MO (and also an opinion piece in the News-Leader of Springfield, MO), equating two (delicately handled) rape scenes to soft-core pornography; for these scenes, and for the irreverent tone of the novel (I don’t think he understands irony or wit), he believes the book ought to be banned from being taught in schools.

Of course, there’s a lot to respond to, especially since Dr. Scroggins says a lot of provocative statements.  But, I don’t want to talk about Him, and His Illogical Conclusions. Nor, do I want to talk about Parental Supervision and Parents’ Rights in Raising Their Child.  These are Important Issues, sure, but are quite frankly, superficial.

The issues of Censorship and Parental Rights and even School Board Responsibilities are so BIG, that they detract (and distract) people about the worth and beauty found in the singularity and uniqueness of a specific book, like Speak.  I believe that the best way to handle Censorship is to take abstract and general words (Sex or Disrespectful Behavior or Uncomfortableness) away from a Group of Books, and instead take the time to handle each book individually.

There are other important books that were banned from school, or threatened with banning, too, and should have their moment in the spotlight (I was saddened to hear that Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian was banned from several school districts this year).  I chose to champion Speak, because of the heart-breaking feedback, discussions, whispered statements that I have read/heard resulting from this one specific book.

SPEAK…

…saved my life.

…helped me say the word “rape.”

…gave words to my anguish.

…helped me feel that I am not alone.

All these beautiful words…and that’s only a casual glance at readers’ remarks.  A tenth anniversary poem which is basically a compilation from letters to Anderson can be found here.

We read to know that we are not alone. (CS Lewis)

I read a passing tweet that said, “keeping Speak in schools won’t stop rape from happening.”  Of course that’s true.  But again, not the point.

Speak is for the rape survivors.  Speak gives the survivors words for their pain.  Speak gives the survivor’s loved ones words of comfort to share.  Speak provides a community for a survivor who might otherwise feel ostracized.

Speak makes specific and personal that which can easily become General, Vague, and Meaningless.

Final Words

Please never forget that this world is so large, and we can oftentimes feel so distant and disconnected, even among our own peers.  But, This Book…This Specific Book, Speak, can help bridge that distance, and I am so proud to know and be a part of a (writing) community that would support something as beautiful as Speak.

Behind Closed Doors

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it.”

Stephen King, On Writing

My hubs has teased me before about shutting him out of my writing; that I don’t want him or anyone else to read my writing. It’s not that I care if anyone reads my work (I have a public blog, after all), nor that I need or want to shut anyone out. It’s more like I need to shut myself in. I need to keep all these ideas and glimpses from flying away from me, and so I need to have a way to focus and get those captured into words before forgetting.

It’s a bit like describing a dream when you just woke up, which is the reason why I call my creative process active dreaming, or describe my writing as dreaming up my words and worlds. When I’m able to capture it via stream of consciousness writing, I feel so much better that I was able to get those words out. They are now in the real world, maybe not whole, but there, and I can flesh out ideas later.

But, when I’m not able to put those thoughts into words, and they go to limbo never to be remembered again, I feel like I’m dying inside. You know that feeling when you’re having a conversation with someone, and you forget what you were just about to say? You shrug it off during the conversation and say that you’ll remember it later, but then the whole time your friend is talking, you keep saying, “what was I going to say?” and the whole conversation becomes this meaningless exercise in remembering what you wanted to say. The frustration you’re feeling is a fraction of what I feel, because I don’t eventually remember what it is I wanted to capture. And, I feel like I failed my world in a way.

Though I know it will take a lot of work to create the scenes that I need, now that I have the story plotted, I feel like it’s more anchored in this world. I can be interrupted more, because it’s easier to recall and play with things that are “real.” I can pick up where I was interrupted because it’s right there in front of me, like a photograph, and all I need are better words to make it three-dimensional.  It has changed from being subconscious to conscious.  And, shaping and re-shaping something is a whole lot easier than starting from nothing.