Saying Goodbye to Twilight

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Tonight, I’m standing in line waiting to see the final installment of the Twilight Saga. Before spending untold hours in lines for every movie, I devoured the books with the ferocity of a teenage girl. It’s hard to explain why I am so taken with all things Twilight, but I own my guilty pleasure completely.

Breaking Dawn: Part 2 signals the end of an era. For the last four years, I’ve had a lot of fun watching the books play out on the big screen and hanging out with other Twihards. I’m going to miss it, but at the same time I’m looking forward to saying goodbye. Excuse the cliché, but all good things must come to an end. Otherwise, we’d never have room for all the new things waiting on the horizon. I’m ready to let go, but the Twilight Universe will always be something special to me.

In the midst of Twilight mania, I wrote my first novel and embarked on a second. The ideas were always there and so was my muse, but the inspiration of Stephanie Meyer’s journey of becoming a published author gave me the final push I needed to get writing, (along with my mother). I will always be thankful for that and I’m even more thankful that I got the opportunity to tell her how she inspired me, (see The Autograph Ninja).

As the series comes to a close, I am anxious to see what Stephanie Meyer and the cast will be up to next. Everyone involved is so talented and I wish them nothing but the best as they move on to new projects.

If I am a bit scarce throughout this weekend, it’s due to a Twilight hangover and multiple viewings. I’ll be back to normal soon enough!

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c.b.w. 2012

22 Writers Worth Reading (Part 1)

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Every avid reader has a list of writers they’d recommend to anyone who will listen.  These are the writers readers look for every time they visit a book store or keep permanently on bookshelves and night stands.  Every list is different and personal, but also inspiring as nothing piques a reader’s interest more than the possibility of a new favorite author.

In keeping with the idea of 22 Things (see 22 Moments of Gratitude), I combed through my book collection and selected 22 writers that consistently have me turning pages into all hours of the night. They range from literary legends to phenomenal YA storytellers, but they all share the distinction of being great writers who know how to keep a reader engaged with great characters and plot lines. Over the course of two posts, each writer will get a moment in the spotlight along with my favorite pieces of work.

Writers 1 – 11 in no particular order:

1. David Foster Wallace
I’ve written of Wallace on a number of occasions, so its no wonder I thought of him first.  His writing is wholly original in terms of style, humor, and language.  Wallace tackles the truth with a point of view that is brutally honest, but also warm-hearted and humorous.  He’s not afraid to take readers on a journey into less glamorous parts of life, like grocery store lines or the cubicle of an IRS employee.  For that I applaud him and embrace every word.

Favorite Book(s): This is Water and Oblivion

2. Jane Austen
When I visited the British Library for the first time, I left a print of my forehead on the glass that shields Jane Austen’s journal.  No matter how many times I see her delicate handwriting, I am always in awe. Words were her gift and she never gave up on writing for a living – I love that about her.  Austen’s stories and characters are so beautifully crafted, they feel real every time I open her books.  No one can write the heart of a woman quite like Austen.

Favorite Book: Pride and Prejudice

3. Charlotte Brontë
Right next to the forehead print I left for Jane Austen, I left another one for Charlotte Brontë. There’s nothing quite as incredible as seeing the last chapter of Jane Eyre written in Brontë’s script. I almost cried as Jane Eyre is my favorite book of all time (so far).  Brontë’s stories are dark at times, but her heroines embody the kind of strength I admire greatly and strive to possess.

Favorite Book: Jane Eyre

4. Ivan Klíma
I discovered Ivan Klíma when I went to Prague a few years ago.  Klíma caught my attention because he knows the power of an idea and the necessity of voicing that idea. For years, his words were banned in an attempt to silence his view of the world. Communist Czechoslovakia had no tolerance for any truth beyond their own making.  Yet, Klíma kept writing. Word after word, he protested the injustice of suppression. 
The passion, love, and creativity in every human being is not something to be wasted or forgotten.

Favorite Book(s): No Saints or Angels and My Golden Trades

5. Dennis Potter
Potter is best known for his screenplays, but I’m a huge fan of his short novels.  He is a gritty writer, who dares to challenge our view of reality and human behavior.  His main characters are usually twisted and amoral, but his focus on emotion makes them relatable regardless of their faults.  Potter is a magician with original description and storytelling, which makes his work an experience unlike any other.  For example, in my favorite book he tells the story of a character who knows he is a character in a writer’s  novel.

Favorite Book: Hide and Seek

6. John Irving
Irving is an elegant writer that dazzles me with emotional honesty and wordplay.  His stories and characters are quirky, but they always hit upon a greater truth. Irving delves into difficult concepts such as challenging moral standards, societal expectations, and the human condition with engaging prose and sharp metaphors.  The last line of every book always leaves me pondering and questioning the world around me.

Favorite Book(s): The Fourth Hand and Cider House Rules

7. J.K. Rowling
I was very late the Harry Potter party, but once I read the first book I was hooked.  Rowling is the only writer who has ever convinced me to follow a main character who is a child.  Throughout the entire series, I was awed by Rowling’s imagination as she conjured an entirely new world filled with dynamic characters. Hermione felt like my twin and Ron an older brother I wish I had.  And Harry, of course, unexpectedly captured my heart.  Who knew a children’s series could work such amazing magic?

Favorite Book(s):  Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows

8. Stephanie Meyer
My love for Stephanie’s Meyer’s work started with the Twilight series, but it only grows as I read more of her work.  Meyer likes to play with convention and create stories that break all the rules. This is a writer who truly knows the meaning of fiction because she traverses all boundaries as if they don’t exist.  In Twilight, she decided vampires could sparkle when everyone else said “No, they can’t.”  I find that very inspiring and empowering!

Favorite Book(s): Twilight

9. Guy de Maupassant
One of Maupassant’s strengths is his ability to transform a rather simple story into something beautiful with well-crafted imagery and flowing prose. Rather than explore these realms the old-fashioned way through the mind of the character, he creates magnificent and sometimes haunting images of emotion with landscapes, water, and overall atmosphere.

Favorite Book: Bel-Ami

10. Vladimir Nabokov
Whenever I finish reading a Nabokov book, everything somehow looks a little different.  Nabokov likes to explore the darker corners of the human mind and he often dredges up parts of the psyche most people would prefer to ignore.  Many of his characters are extreme personifications of human behavior, but Nabokov paints them so realistically they could be the next door neighbor everyone knows, but would never invite for tea.

Favorite Book: Invitation to a Beheading

11. Peter David
Geek alert! Back in my Trekkie days, (Oh, let’s face it, they never ended), I always looked forward to any Star Trek book written by Peter David.  He portrays the main characters better than most Trek writers and he has a great sense of the overall scope of Gene Rodenberry’s creation.  Every one of his books had me at the edge of my seat with suspense, laughing from well-placed humor, and dreaming of The Final Frontier.

Favorite Book(s): Imzadi and Q-Squared

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Stay tuned for 12 -22!

c.b. 2012

The Autograph Ninja

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In A Nice Surprise, I stated that I have a knack for getting autographs and it got me thinking about all the signatures I’ve collected over the years.  A friend recently called me a “ninja” and I think she might be right, especially after receiving the latest addition to my collection.

My collection includes a variety of autographs, but not all come from household names. Like everything else I collect (books, rocks, etc), every signature means something to me on one level or another. Gathering autographs is all about connecting to people who have inspired me or have had a positive influence in my life.  They are all attached to memories, beautiful moments, and sometimes life-altering experiences.

It wasn’t easy to find all my autographs, but I did manage to locate the vast majority.  Many autographs are personalized to me, so in order to safeguard my identity I’ve blotted out my real name.  Sorry about the fuzzy areas, but it had to be done!   To save space, a number of photos have been made into thumbnails, but one click will enlarge them to full size.

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This week, I hit what I consider to be the mother lode of autographs because I never thought I could get Stephanie Meyer to sign my books.  She is rather reclusive and her fame is a bit out of my league.  However, through a brilliant stroke of luck I found myself in contact with a link in a chain that lead directly to her.  I sent my Twilight series and The Host down the chain and hoped for the best.  In just a few days, my books came back to me signed!

  

 

Along with the books, I sent a letter to thank her for the pivotal, even if inadvertent, role she played in the completion of my novel.  After failing three times to get a first draft off the ground, I was ready to give up.  I needed a kick in the butt and my mother gave it to me through an aptly timed phone call.  After reading an article on Meyer in the local newspaper, she told me, “If Stephanie Meyer can do it, so can you.”  In a strange twist of fate, that phone call came just as I was about to leave to catch the Twilight movie on opening night.   The next day I started writing my novel (again) and didn’t stop until I finished it.  While I have a village of people to thank for supporting me during the writing process, my mother and Stephanie Meyer both helped to wake up my muse.  Needless to say, these autographs mean the world to me.

Keeping with Twilight, I’ve also stumbled upon a couple more signatures related to the series. Peter Facinelli (left) came to me through a set of collector’s cards for the first Twilight movie.  The autograph was included in a collector edition binder I got through amazon.com (before the craze went haywire).  As for Justin Chon (right), I met him at a Twilight event a week before Eclipse opened in theaters. Both were dumb luck!

 

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During a trip to China, I had the honor of meeting Yu Hua, an author who writes novels that deal with the Cultural Revolution and Chinese culture, (most notably To Live and Chronicles of a Blood Merchant).  His stories are intense journeys in to the human experience and explore complex emotions within families and friendships. In Beijing, I got the rare opportunity to hear him speak in a small group setting.  For two hours, he discussed his writing process, the challenges of writing in a country that censors everything with great scrutiny, and the power of words and creativity.  When I see his autograph, it reminds me how lucky I am to be a writer who has the freedom to write without penalty or restriction.  Despite the obstacles he often faces, he is a true example of how writing can set the soul free.

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Back in 2007, I attended The Office Convention in Scranton, PA.  The stars seemed to align during the whole weekend as I found myself almost constantly in the company of cast members, writers, and producers.  While a fan’s ultimate dream, the convention and the people I encountered had life-altering effects that still impact me today.  Throughout Seasons 3 and 4, I wrote a series of posts on The Office message boards that analyzed each episode and a friend of mine brought them to the attention of one of the producers.  He liked what I wrote so much, he personally presented me with a cast-signed Season 3 DVD set.   Furthermore, he invited me for a one-on-one encounter with the writers of the show.  For close to an hour, I got to rub elbows with some of the most creative and amazing writers in the industry.  During this event, the same producer introduced me as a writer.  It was the first time anyone had ever given me that distinction and it changed my life.  Every time I sit down to write, I try to live up to the title of “Writer.”

The Office is a big reason why I started writing after a very long dry spell, so these autographs serve as a monument not only to fandom, but also as a constant reminder that I must keep writing.  One day I hope to send a published copy of my novel to the producer who gave me such a wonderful gift.

1.Steve Carell 2.Leslie David Baker* 3.Mindy Kaling* 4.Rainn Wilson 5.Oscar Nunez* 6.Paul Lieberstein 7.Brian Baumgartner 8.John Krasinski 9.Angela Kinsey* 10.Jenna Fischer 11.Kate Flannery* 12.B.J. Novak* 13.Ed Helms* 14. Phyllis Smith* 15.Creed Bratton*

*I got a second personalized autograph from these cast members when I met them at the convention.

In addition, many of the writers, other producers, supporting actors, and even the creators of the show were kind enough to sign my autograph scrapbook.

   

Left to right: Gene Stupnitsky, Justin Spitzer and Mindy Kaling / Bobby Ray Shafer / Kent Zbornak / Andy Buckley

  

Left to Right: Craig Robinson / Michael Schur / Greg Daniels, Lester Lewis

When I got home from the convention, I had another little surprise waiting for me in the mailbox.  Jenna Fischer answered my letter and returned an item I asked her to autograph.

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There’s even more after the jump . . .

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Spreading The Word

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Over on Thinking of Rob, they are trying to help out a member of the TOR community who recently fell on hard times.  Her husband suffered a serious injury and unfortunately it occurred during a lapse in their health insurance.  As if the pain wasn’t enough, the medical bills are piling up fast.  To help out, TOR is taking donations and holding an auction to raise money.  The auction is full of amazing items donated by the TOR community and beyond.  Please head over to bid on some great items and help out someone who could really use the support.

I’m not kidding when I say they’ve got some great items!  Here’s just a small list of what’s up for auction:

  • First edition, hardcover Eclipse signed by Stephanie Meyer
  • Signed copy of Outlander by Diana Galbadon
  • Props from Remember Me
  • Entertainment Weekly autographed by Kristen Stewart
  • Items signed by Peter Facinelli, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz
  • White cover edition Twilight series
  • Breaking Dawn Comic Con badges
  • Books signed by Charlain Harris, Particia Briggs, and Janet Evanovich
  • Twilight Collector Cards
  • Hunger Games poster
  • Signed New Moon movie companion (up for bids on Monday 9/19/2011)

There is so much more, too!  Bidding is as simple as leaving a comment.  For more information visit Auctions for Shannon.  The auction will continue through September 23, 2011 so keep watching for new items and bidding opportunities.  Hope to see you there!

c.b. 2011

A Bookshelf of Organized Chaos

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Recently, the photograph that runs along my sidebar was a topic of conversation with a friend.  It isn’t something I pulled off the internet, but rather a photograph I took of my personal bookshelf.   The shelf is one of the more noticeable features of my home as it covers the an entire wall in my dining room.  It reaches all the way to the ceiling and it is rammed with hundreds of books.  With such a large collection, it would make sense to have  a sophisticated system of organization – like alphabetizing or Dewey Decimal – to make it easy to find any book.  I’ve mentioned my highly organized nature, so naturally there is a system in place, but no one really knows how it works except for me!   Nothing is alphabetized or numbered and genre based categories are not utilized. Everything is neatly shelved, but aside from that it looks like a haphazard stack to the untrained eye.  Despite my unorthodox ways, I know where each and every book is located.  Below is a larger scale photograph of my shelf and a list of the categories I use to keep everything in working order.

Writers I Admire
Location: Second Shelf

I carved out a special section to store the books of authors who I hold in high regard as a reader and as an aspiring writer.  The likes of David Foster Wallace, Ivan Klíma, John Irving, Michael Chabon, Paul Auster, Dennis Potter, Guy de Maupassant, Vladimir Nabokov, and Paulo Coehlo populate this area of the wall along with a few other new recruits.  I keep these writers grouped together because they inspire me to continue experimenting with my own style of writing.  I don’t want to emulate them, but rather write with the same spirit of courage, creativity, honesty, boldness, and heart.

Books I’ve Read
Location: Second Shelf (far right, part of which is not visible in the picture), Third Shelf (1/4 way in from the left and extends to the far right which is not visible), Fourth Shelf (From the left edge up to The Da Vanci Code).

If you have visited the “My Bookshelf” tab, you’ll probably spot several of those titles stacked on my shelves.  I keep most books I’ve read if I enjoyed them, (some are double stacked behind what is visible).  Whatever I don’t keep is sold to Half-Price Books where I usually have the cash in my hands for an entire five minutes before buying something “new.”

The books are grouped in such a strange pattern on different shelves in order to link different categories without creating too much disruption.  I tend to read YA at a fast pace, which means just about every book in that section has been read.  That creates a nice meeting point to start stacking all other books I’ve read.  The other meeting point connects to Authors I Admire as the vast majority of those books have also been read.

These books are shelved in the order in which they were read.  Books on the right are the most recently read, which makes it easier to distinguish them from the next category . . .

Books I Haven’t Read
Location: Third Shelf (far right, starting after Martin Amis and continuing to a point that is not visible in the photograph), Fourth Shelf (starting after The Da Vinci Code and extending beyond the scope of photograph).

The largest category by far, but I would rather have too much to read than not enough.  The books are stacked on different shelves for a purely logistical reason – size.  The hardcovers are too big to fit on the third shelf and the collection as a whole is too big to fit all on one shelf.

Almost Finished Reading
Location: Third Shelf (in the middle, right after Water For Elephants and stopping at The Collected Short Stories of Anton Chekov)

These are books that for whatever reason I never got to the last page.  Perhaps another book caught my attention or I just didn’t get into the story.  I can usually remember where I left off and almost always return to them at one time or another.  I figured the perfect place for them was right in between read and unread, like a buffer zone of sorts.

Young Adult

Location: Third Shelf (left Side) and Fourth Shelf (left Side)

Ever since I read Twilight, (yeah, I’m one of those people), I found myself drawn into the YA genre.  There are a number of series of which I’ve become a devoted follower.  What I love about YA is the storytelling aspect.  The writing may not be fine literature, but the stories are usually very original and always a good bit of fun.  After reading something heavy or difficult, I love jumping into a realm where I don’t have to analyze every single word.

The series I’ve collected include, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games Trilogy, Twilight series, (which has actually turned into anything by Stephanie Meyer), Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series, Lauren Kate’s Fallen Series, Percy Jackson, and Claudia Gray’s Evernight series.

I tend to mix read with unread, but only because I go through them so quickly.  At the moment, there’s only a few I haven’t read, which means it’s time to start stockpiling again!

Size again plays a role in why YA occupies two shelves instead of one.  Harry Potter and parts of the Twilight collection are too tall to fit the third shelf, while the rest of YA is too short to properly fill up the fourth shelf, (sometimes aesthetics have to be considered).

Click for more . . .

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