Posted in General, Monthly Reading List

March 2019: What I’m Reading

It’s the time again to do a roundup of some of the books I’m reading this month! Here are a few on the top of my list:

1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

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Admittedly, this is not the first time I’ve read this book. I read it as part of the required summer reading before my freshman year of high school and immediately fell in love with it. The story of Francie Nolan and her family in the early 1900s really strikes a chord with me even though I was (obviously) born far later. The technology and circumstances might be different now than they were then, but there’s a beauty in the authenticity of the characters because Betty Smith doesn’t shy away from the uglier side of human nature. I suppose I appreciate that because reading about flawed characters, on some level, helps me to accept my own flaws (or, at least, I would if I had any).

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I know I am.

From the publisher: “From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for the often harsh life of Williamsburg demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior—such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce—no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the Nolans’ daily experiences are tenderly threaded with family connectedness and raw with honesty. Betty Smith has, in the pages of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, captured the joys of humble Williamsburg life-from “junk day” on Saturdays, when the children of Francie’s neighborhood traded their weekly take for pennies, to the special excitement of holidays, bringing cause for celebration and revelry. Betty Smith has artfully caught this sense of exciting life in a novel of childhood, replete with incredibly rich moments of universal experiences—a truly remarkable achievement for any writer.”

Click here to get it from Amazon

2. Shrill by Lindy West

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Confession: at first, I didn’t know this was a book. I saw an ad for the upcoming Hulu series starring Aidy Bryant, and I posted about the series on Facebook. A friend of mine commented that she was excited to see the TV show because she’d loved the book so, of course, I immediately bought the book. I’m only a few essays in, but I’m already in loved. Lindy West’s writing style is so fun and honest and relatable and I haven’t enjoyed writing like this since I read Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy.

From the publisher: “Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible–like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you–writer and humorist Lindy West quickly discovered that she was anything but. 

From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her struggle to convince herself, and then the world, that fat people have value; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.

With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss, and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.”

Click here to get it from Amazon

3. Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

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I haven’t started this one yet, but I’m very much looking forward to it. I loved Lauren Oliver’s first novel, Before I Fall, and I’m anxious to jump back into her writing. Based on the description, this book sounds dark and creepy and akin to Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects (check back here on Friday for my review of Sharp Objects).

From the publisher: “Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged.

When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked.

Now, Nick has to find her sister, before it’s too late.

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.”

Click here to get it on Amazon

 

What are you reading this month? Have you read anything on my list? Do you have a suggestion for next month’s reading selections? Let me know in the comments!


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Posted in General

January 2019: What I’m Reading

Despite my book recommendation lists for the holidays, I realized I don’t often talk about what I’m reading. Which is silly, because writers are always first and foremost readers. And I do read–a LOT. I don’t always get to read as much as I’d like because I’m the mother of a tiny human, but I always make it a point to read before bed. I’m also really big on audiobooks; sometimes, the only time I have to “read” is when I’m driving in my car or walking around the grocery store (yes, I’m that weirdo who goes through the store with one earbud in). I also usually have more than one book going at a time because I’m nuts and my mood fluctuates, so here are the three books I’m reading this month:

1. A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

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I originally heard about this book because of the movie trailer, but of course I wanted to read it before I saw the movie because how else can I sound pretentious and tell everyone “the book was better”? I just started reading this and ten pages in, I’m already completely hooked. It’s a page turner for sure and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

From the publisher: “She’s your best friend. She knows all your secrets. That’s why she’s so dangerous.

A single mother’s life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.

But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.

Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.”

Click here to get it on Amazon

2. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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I re-read this book at least once a year and I’m due for another round. Not only do I love Margaret Atwood, but this book is, I think, incredibly important considering our current political climate. It should be required reading for everyone. As a bonus, I love the Hulu series adaptation of this book. It stays true to the source material while expanding the universe Atwood created (it doesn’t hurt that Atwood is a producer on the show and has worked closely with Elizabeth Moss and the show runners). Anyone else excited for season three in April?

From the publisher: The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States and is now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men in its population.

The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment’s calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions. The Handmaid’s Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and a tour de force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best.”

Click here to get it on Amazon

3. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

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I recently read Aimee Bender’s short story collection The Girl with the Flammable Skirt and although it confused the bejeezus out of me the first time I read it, I loved Bender’s dark and whimsical writing style so I’m excited to see what her novel is like.

From the publisher: “On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose. 

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.”

Click here to get it on Amazon

 

What are you reading this month? Have you read anything on my list? Let me know in the comments!


Click here to support me on Patreon and get writing tips, prompts, and exclusive content available only to patrons! 

I can’t guarantee that supporting me on Patreon will cause you to have endless good hair days . . . but I can’t guarantee that it won’t either.

Posted in General, Photos

Photos: Juniper House, 10/2/18

Here are a few photos from last night when I read a piece at a local reading series called Juniper House. What I love most about it is that the first part of the night is an open mic night but readers are only allowed to present brand new work. Some people even take advantage of a prompt jar and draw a topic from a big jar and write a piece then and there before reading it. Then there’s always a featured reader and last night it was an incredible local poet named James Jay.

This was my second time attending this series but my first time reading–AND I ended up going first. If you read my post about public speaking, you know that I have lots of anxiety about reading my work. But I got up there and read a brand new piece (and managed to do it without panic vomiting even once)!

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Far away
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Up close (90s me couldn’t resist the purple lipstick)
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Sitting down after the reading, relieved it went well!

Want to read what I read last night? Check out my Patreon!



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Posted in General, Writing Advice

5 Public Speaking Tips for Your Next Reading

When you’re a writer, it sometimes becomes necessary to read your work in public. And really, it can be kind of fun. A lot of times, it seems like half the battle of being a writer is getting people to read your stuff, so forcing a room full of people to sit and listen to your brilliance is kind of awesome.

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“READ MY BOOK!!!!!!”

However, if you’re like me and suffer from crippling anxiety, the thought of standing up in front of a bunch of people can be . . . well, terrifying. I want to share my work with other people, but I also want them to stop looking at me.

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I have issues.

I once asked my therapist if I could pull a Sia and stand with my back to the audience or just wear a giant wig so no one could see my face. He told me I could, but he gave me a few other suggestions as an alternative to wearing a wig and a bow the size of a smart car.

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Bows aren’t really my thing.

1. Practice, practice, practice! Read your work out loud before the actual event. You’ll find tough spots that might trip you up so you can iron them out. Plus, you can practice your pacing so that you don’t go too fast; you don’t want to sound like a disclaimer at the end of a pill commercial. If possible, read your work to a significant other or trusted friend who will give you honest feedback.

2. Record yourself. I hate watching myself on camera, but it can be hugely beneficial to your public speaking. Set up your laptop and record a video of yourself reading your work. That way, you’ll notice any nervous fidgeting you do and check your posture. No one wants to watch you read while you’re hunched over like Gollum.

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“This next poem is about my childhood.”

3. Check out your local Toastmaster group. It’s usually free to show up for a couple sessions and you can test out material on an impartial group of people. Plus, public speaking is kind of their thing so they really know what they’re doing.

4. Take a shot. I don’t usually like to encourage drinking, but sometimes a shot of liquid courage will do you some good. But make sure it’s only one–throwing up from drinking and throwing up from nerves is still throwing up in the middle of your reading. Once, before a reading, I stopped at a nearby bar to visit my best friend who was bartending and ordered a shot for courage. Because she loves me and felt bad about not being able to attend, she poured me a triple. I drank it down and realized I had to hurry to get to my reading. It was the middle of summer and very hot outside so by the time I arrived, I was sweating Jameson out of my pores because nothing says professional like showing up smelling like Irish whiskey.

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“I’m here for my reading!”

Don’t do what I did. One shot is more than enough.

5. Relax. Perhaps the best piece of advice my therapist gave me was to remind me that no one shows up to a reading hoping for the author to fail. The audience wants to hear your work and they want you to do well. So take a breath, drink some water, and have fun!

As a bonus, here’s a video of me doing a reading for a local literary group. Please note the deep breath and twitchy movements and learn from my mistakes 😉


Like this post? Please consider clicking here to support me on Patreon so I can regularly bring you more content like this! I can’t guarantee that supporting me on Patreon will cause you to have endless good hair days . . . but I can’t guarantee that it won’t either.