My Year in Books: 2016

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Another great year of reading has passed. With just a few days to spare, I achieved my Goodreads Reading Goal for 2016. I read 35 books (for a total of 10,854 pages). Not bad considering my crazy busy schedule and obsessive knitting habit!

It seems only fitting to hand out some Reading Awards for my year in books:

Favorite Read

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

It may not have been the novel we were hoping for, but the script for a stage play was more than enough for me. Revisiting Harry Potter’s world was not only welcomed, but a strong reminder of why we loved it in the first place.

Biggest Surprise

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

I’m not a huge reader of thrillers, so it was surprising in an of itself to pick up Stephenie Meyer’s latest book. As a fan of her previous works, I decided to give it a shot and I’m glad I did. Meyer is fantastic at constructing relationships between characters and creating a world for the reader to escape to and experience with those characters. This is a thriller for girls and all it asks of you is to let go of reality and enjoy the ride.

Biggest Disappointment

Conversion by Katherine Howe

I had a high hopes walking into this one as I love Howe’s previous novels (in particular, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane). However, her YA effort never really got off the ground. While the premise of a mysterious illness sweeping a private school is intriguing, especially with supernatural undertones, the story trudged along without any sense of resolution.

Best New Series

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

I haven’t read the last book of the series, yet, but the first three easily qualify as among the best reads this year. Meyer’s unique twist on fairytales, gives the genre a new place to operate and it is so much fun. Who would have thought Cinderella could be a cyborg?

Best Continuing Series

Journey to Munich (Maisie Dobbs #12) by Jacqueline Winspear

I fell in love with this series a few years ago and the latest installment did not disappoint. The continuing journey of Maisie is one worth following as she hones her natural skills as a detective and navigates the stormy waters of grief.

Best Recommended Book

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

A friend gave me a copy of Outlander and insisted I read it. Wow! It was beyond fantastic! I know I’m way behind the rest of the world on this one, but I’m catching up!

Favorite New (To Me) Author

Charlie Lovett

The Bookman’s Tale turned out to be one of my favorite books in 2016. The main character was not only relatable to me as introvert, but his emotional journey as a widower was beautifully drawn. Add in a Shakespearean mystery and you’ve got an incredible read!

Most Emotional Read

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I didn’t just cry, I bawled. This is one of the most moving, humorous, and heartfelt novels I’ve read in a long time. The sequel, Me After You is just as good.

Best Non-Fiction

Creative Schools by Sir Ken Robinson

As an educator looking to revitalize the classroom, Robinson is must-read material. His latest provides enlightening and thought-provoking ideas on how to give public education a much-needed facelift.

My full reading list for 2016 can be viewed on My Bookshelf.

The Year Ahead:

I’m already constructing my To Read pile for 2017. So far, these are the titles I’m  most excited to read:

Winter (Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Tales from Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare and others

The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

In This Grave Hour (Maisie Dobbs #13) by Jacqueline Winspear

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon

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How was your reading year?

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c.b.w. 2016

 

 

 

November Challenges: Week #4

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The close of November brought the end of both NaNoWriMo and the Poem A Day Challenge (via Poetic Asides on Writer’s Digest). By some miracle, I managed to complete my goals for both challenges despite a few days of writer’s block and the Thanksgiving holiday.

NaNoWriMo

Early Bird word count: 1,611

Week 1 word count: 3,262

Week 2 word count: 4,567

Week 3 word count: 3,535

Week 4 word count: 2,416

Total: 15,391

I hit my goal of 15,000 words (plus a little more). It doesn’t get any better than that! All I can say is I’m grateful for planning a little bit ahead when I clocked in three early bird writing days. I knew Thanksgiving weekend was going to be crazy, so I worked in a few extra days beforehand to alleviate the stress of cramming in writing time while also trying to spend time with family. Thank goodness the only pantsing going on was with the actual writing, rather than with scheduling!

The Month’s Trends:

I pantsed it the entire time!

I fully expect to be referencing my notebook during the next phase of my novel, but the first seven chapters were completed pantsed. And I loved every second of it! I never would have guessed it, but pantsing is quite liberating.

I’ve always planned everything I write, but this time my characters had other things in mind. I fully intend on giving them more control as the process continues. Why bother fighting them? They know their story best, right?

Music Matters

I’ve always used carefully constructed playlists to help fuel my muse’s imagination. Even with pantsing, this is still true. Imagine Dragons, Junip, and Muse all played a key role in giving my main characters a deeper sense of emotion, while also unearthing some pretty interesting secrets.

I have a lucky charm.

My typewriter key pendant has become a talisman of inspiration. I don’t know if I’m just imagining things, but my writing time always seemed to go a little smoother when I wore it. I’ll be wearing it until The Muse’s sequel is finished.

There’s always time to write.

Is my life crazy busy? Yes. But this month has reminded me that there is always time to write. I just have to want it bad enough. Small sacrifices had to be made, but it was worth it overall to get the chance to tell the story that’s been inside my head for so long.

November Poem A Day Challenge

A month of poeming has come to an end and I’m proud to say I wrote a poem for each day in November. I had to play catch-up a couple of times, but I still completed the challenge on time.

The next step is choosing 20 poems to create a chapbook submission. I’ve entered this competition several times before without success, but I’ll jump in again anyway. It’s free to enter and I love the challenge of piecing together a collection. I learn something every year about what works and what doesn’t when selecting poems for a chapbook.

The last batch of poems I wrote for the PAD challenge will be posted on my haiku blog, Haiku Tree, throughout this week. Check it out!

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How did you fare on your goals for November?

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c.b.w. 2016

 

A Plan For NaNoWriMo

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Over the last few days, I’ve asked myself if it’s actually a good idea to do NaNoWriMo. My schedule is already ridiculously full and my stress level is already off the charts. Do I really need to add writing 500 words a day to my insane list of things to do?

In a word: YES. Writing is actually a stress reliever for me. Just like knitting helps me sleep (the repetition helps to slow down the thought train in my brain), writing lets me escape everything giving me a headache.

The only thing I’m worried about is having a enough time to complete 500 words. From past experience, I know I can punch out 500 words in an hour if I’m really focused. During the work week finding that kind focus will be challenging.

To deal with the work week challenge, I’m giving myself the freedom to have variant word count days as long as I hit a weekly goal of 3,500 words (which works out to 500 words/day). Some days I’ll be happy to get 200 words, while on others I might get up to 1,000. I know this isn’t how NaNoWriMo traditionally works, but I know what will work best for me!

I have several days off in November due to Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. I’ll be using those days off to their full advantage, along with weekends. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work ahead whenever the day job isn’t taking up 12 hours of my day.

We’ll see how it goes. While I’m motivated to dig into my novel, I’m also realistic. If I make my goals, great. If not, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. This is supposed to be a fun stress reliever, not a source of stroke inducing deadlines!

In any case, I hope my favorite coffee shop ordered extra mocha so they can keep me happily caffeinated while I write!

Stay tuned for updates on progress!

What’s your plan for NaNoWriMo?

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c.b.w. 2016

At Summer’s End

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I can’t believe it’s already been two months since the school year ended! Where does the time go? While I’d give just about anything for another month of summer bliss, I’m also anxious to get back into the classroom.

At the start of this summer, I made a list of things I wanted to do with my time away from work, (see Summer Plans). I was successful on some things and a total failure on others. Still, it was a nice summer full of unexpected discoveries.

  1. Start trail running, again.

This did not happen. Record heat made this goal almost impossible. When its 110-115 degrees more often than not, the health benefits of trail running go right out the window. I’m hoping to revisit the trails after it cools down a bit. I’ll take 90 degrees at this point!

2. Start cooking, again.

When I set this goal, I thought about pulling out the crock pot or the wonderbag, but the heat once again came into play. Instead, I played around with fruit salads, crackers, and cheeses. Light, cool meals that included all the major food groups became my mission … and it was fun! Rather than rely on recipe cards, I created my own combinations of fresh foods.

3. Knit.

I finish one pair of socks, four washcloths, one dog blanket (using scrap yarn), and worked on a few nearly completed projects that are being difficult, (sometimes the finishing phase is the most tricky). Overall, the knitting needles got a great workout!

4. Write.

My haiku journal is nearly full! It seems my muse just can’t get enough of those tiny poems!

The goal to send out query packages, unfortunately, was not met due to a surprise project that dropped into my lap, (see Getting All Nostalgic and A Weird Writing Dilemma). I plan on jumping back into this process very soon. I have all the pieces in place (i.e. query, synopsis, and agent list), so I just have to construct the packages and hit send.

5. Read.

I set the goal of being five books ahead in my Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge. In the next couple of days, I should reach that goal. I read like a lunatic this summer, happily devouring eight books in two months.

6. Learn something new.

I had no idea where this goal would lead and it ended up yielding the most surprises. When I came home from vacation with a new-to-me vintage Barbie doll, it triggered an entire summer of vintage Barbie madness, (see My Vintage Gals and Adding to the Vintage Crew).

Because my budget doesn’t allow for splurging on mint condition vintage Barbie and clothes, I instead purchased two vintage dolls and several fashions in need of repair. I had some basic knowledge of the restoration process, but not nearly enough to solve some of the problems plaguing the newest additions to my collection.

I learned how to:

  • clean deeply rooted stains on vinyl
  • reshape limbs
  • fix neck or torso splits
  • safely remove age stains and spots from vintage fabric
  • correctly identify vintage Barbie dolls (differentiating marks, face paint, and common issues that effect one doll, but not another).
  • correctly assess the value of a doll and fashions based on condition and availability

I’m still on a learning curve, but I’m loving the process as a whole. I’ve learned so much and I like knowing I’m able to do right by the dolls in my collection.

7. Binge on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

Done! I caught up on my Top Tier shows, (i.e. Grimm, The Blacklist, Bob’s Burgers, etc) and explored a few more including, Doctor Thorne (Amazon Prime). Then, I re-watched Daredevil Seasons 1 and 2, again. It’s sooooo good!!

8. Work.

As expected, I couldn’t stay away too long. By mid-July my dining room table was planning central for AP World History. I have the first two weeks planned and ready to go. In addition, I created a website for the class because I use a modified flipped classroom model.

9. Spend time with family, furkids, and friends.

Having so much free time was truly a gift. I was able to visit my dad and hang out more often with my mother and sister. However, being able to spend so much time with my remaining dog was the most precious part of my summer. He is elderly and does not have much time left – I made every day count as much as possible.

It was also a gift to spend time with friends I normally don’t see outside of work. I’m lucky to have co-workers I’ve come to count as close, personal friends. We said we’d hang out over the summer and we did. This was a big deal because we say that every year and never actually do it. I’m truly grateful to have such wonderful friends.

10. Clean out the house.

Done! The shed, closets, and hobby room all got purged of things no longer needed. A local charity and the dump received multiple visits. It’s a good feeling to clear out the clutter.

In the process I came across forgotten items that reminded me of the person I was before I lost so much. Its been a rough few years of grief and pain. Recently, I’ve felt the dark clouds lifting and this rediscovery is yet another piece that allows me to find my new normal.

My home and work spaces have been redefined and all feels new, yet I feel the old me resurfacing. The me that is overtly optimistic and isn’t afraid to be a little funky and push the rules a bit. I’ve missed that part of me and it’s nice to have it back.

All in all, it was a great summer!

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c.b.w. 2016

 

Kinda Sorta Goals For 2016

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I’m trying something a little different this year when it comes to setting goals. I’ve been very specific in the past and that has served me well as a planner, but my muse has been less than cooperative. For example, one of my 2015 goals was to start writing the sequel to The Muse. My muse disagreed with that goal and remained stubbornly silent on that project. We’re still not on speaking terms when it comes to this sticky subject.

I’m as driven as ever to get my novel published (somehow, some way). I have a million ideas for the The Muse’s sequel and truly do want to start writing the continuing saga of Amanda and Ian. As far as poetry goes, I’m writing haiku for multiple competitions and forums. There’s also this blog and a shelf full of craft projects!

Clearly, I have a lot of projects burning a hole in my muse pocket.

Instead of setting incredibly specific goals my muse ignores anyway, perhaps big picture goals are the way to go.

Kinda Sorta Goals:

Write, write, and write some more.

At the core of everything is my fierce desire to write. Whether it’s poetry, novels, or funky articles about knitting, my central goal will always be writing in any form.

My muse takes me a in all different directions and frequently changes her mind! I’m just going to go with the flow and keep my pen moving.

Stay optimistic and keep trying.

My go with flow mentality doesn’t mean I’m losing my determined edge! The Muse is a still a huge priority and I’ll be doing everything I can to get it published. Whether its through the traditional channels or self-publishing, it’s about time this thing saw the light of day!

The same goes for poetry. I’m going to grab onto any opportunity I can to submit to competitions, journals, etc.

Join the community.

My participation in the Poetic Asides community has inspired me to seek out other groups of writers. I’ve joined a few new groups, but have yet to fully participate (sometimes I just like to sit under the radar and get a sense of how the community functions). As 2016 unfolds, I’m hoping to find my groove in new poetry communities, but also among Young Adult writers.

This might mean searching for communities in the blogosphere and/or social media. Either way, I’m looking to connect with more people who like to write what I like to write. Maybe they can offer some advice on publication or some good old fashioned encouragement? We’ll see!

Experiment.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Writing the same thing in the same way all the time. I want to see my writing continue to grow into something fresh and engaging. That means playing with fictional techniques and haiku formats. In addition, I want to see myself write something totally different.  The possibilities are endless if I consider a different genre or poetic form.

This same sense of experimentation also applies to my craft table. I want to try new crafts (like painting and beading) and expand my knitting and photography skills.

Trust the muse.

My muse always knows best. I have to remember to get out her way and let her speak.

Word of the Year: Enthusiasm

Weird goals aside, I want this year to be about hopeless enthusiasm that can’t be cured. No matter where this crazy journey takes me, I’m jumping in with everything I’ve got.

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What are your kinda sorta goals for 2016?

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c.b.w. 2016