Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon – The Wrap Up

I did it! I made it through my first 24 hour read-a-thon. Though I couldn’t read all of those 24 hours, I feel pretty good about what I did accomplish even if I didn’t read as much as I would have liked.

I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t participate more with other readers online through the blog, Goodreads, Twitter or other platforms. That was one thing I was looking forward to, but I never felt like I had enough time to actually do it. I feel like the slowest reader ever.

Here are some interesting statistics from my April 2018 read-a-thon:

Total pages read – 544
Hours actively reading – 16
Books involved – 6
Books finished – 2
Print books – 4
Ebooks – 1
Audio books – 1
Women authors – 3
Men authors – 3

Closing survey:

1. Which hour was the most daunting for you?
The hardest was probably hour 19, 11:00pm-midnight, my time. With the entire household asleep besides me, I really struggled to stay awake. I allowed myself a two-hour rest after that, and resumed reading again at hour 22.

2. Tell us ALLLLL the books you read!
I read only one book in its entirety, finished another that I’d already started prior to read-a-thon, read/listened to bits of two other books that I was also in the middle of already, and started one just for read-a-thon that I didn’t quite finish. The books:

Bible (NIV), Numbers, chapter 3
Down Cut Shin Creek, by Kathi Appelt & Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
The Silver Chair, by C. S. Lewis
This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein
City of Glass, by Cassandra Clare

3. Which books would you recommend to other readathoners?
I would recommend any of the books I read during read-a-thon. All are great for very different reasons.

4. What’s a really rad thing we could do during the next Read-a-thon that would make you smile?
Just keep doing more of what you do! I didn’t participate on social media as much as I thought I might, but I at least tried to check in periodically.

5. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? Would you be interested in volunteering to to help organize and prep?
There’s a good chance I’ll do something like this again. At this point, I probably wouldn’t be able to participate as a volunteer, but I do appreciate all that everyone did and sacrificed in order to do so. Thank you!

The next Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon is in October. It won’t be soccer season. And I won’t be in the middle of a writing challenge. So as long as it doesn’t fall on an important family birthday weekend, maybe I’ll be able to read more than I did this time. 

What did you read this weekend?

Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon – Midway & Beyond

I have survived more than half of the read-a-thon so far. I was nearing the halfway mark on City of Glass, by Cassandra Clare when I had to pack up and go out again for my semi-monthly writer’s group meeting. Since I am supposed to be working on a writing goal this month, I figured I shouldn’t skip out on this.

While I was out and about earlier today taking my boys to their soccer games, I got to read a few pages of the ebook I started prior to this challenge – Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman. I read a bit more of this while I ate dinner, and I am close to finishing this book.

I also had to take a little mini-break this afternoon, and laid down with my eyes closed for about twenty minutes or so while I listened to This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein. I was a little concerned I would fall asleep, however, so I didn’t let myself get too comfortable.

I have been able to keep to a pretty normal meal schedule so far, though not particularly healthy. Things could get interesting later as I head into the wee hours. I’m still feeling pretty good so far, and I feel pretty confident I can make it through this event. Though, I do wish I was a faster reader, and could get through more books than I’ve been able to so far today.

Recap of what I’ve read so far today:
Numbers Chapter 3, by Moses – 1 page
Down Cut Shin Creek, by Kathi Appelt & Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer – 55 pages
City of Glass, by Cassandra Clare – pages 1-178, 178 pages
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman – pages 224-270, 34 pages
This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein – 35 minutes/20 pages (approx.)
The Silver Chair, by C. S. Lewis – pages 110-121, 11 pages
Total pages: 299

I missed the mid-point survey, so I’ll put it in here:

1. What are you reading right now?
City of Glass, by Cassandra Clare and Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman.

2. How many books have you read so far?
I finished one and read/listened to parts of four others.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
I’d just like to finish the one(s) I’m already working on!

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Just soccer games and writing group meetings. Nothing major! No, the real interruptions (the unplanned variety) have been all of my own making – checking the blog, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon so far?
I don’t think I’ve really been surprised by anything. Disappointed in my page count, perhaps, but not surprised.

Six more hours to go. What are you reading?

Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon – It Begins!

I’ve been at this read-a-thon thing for three hours now, and I thought perhaps I should check in. I’ve finished one book and started another. Granted, the book I finished was a 55-page children’s book about the pack horse librarians of Kentucky – a fascinating bit of American history I’ve only recently learned about!

The book is Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky, by Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer. It is full of period photos and great information on one of the most successful, if short-lived programs of the New Deal’s WPA. I am really excited to read about this program and now I want to know even more!

Now, at the beginning of hour 3, I’ve consumed my first cup of coffee and started reading the first book on my original TBR pile: City of Glass, by Cassandra Clare. I’m only about twenty pages in so far, but I’m off to a good start.

Soon, however, I will have my first required interruption. My kids have soccer games today, so reading will not be possible for at least a couple of hours. It will be a good chance to get outdoors and breathe some nice cool (and probably damp!) Oregon springtime air.

Here are my responses to the opening survey:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I’ll be reading today mostly from my home in Salem, Oregon. I’ll be reading around the kids’ soccer games, and my own writing challenge I’m already participating in (Camp NaNoWriMo).
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
There are way too many books on my TBR for today, mostly because I wanted to have lots of choices. I think I’m most excited to continue with Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, starting with City of Glass.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
COFFEE!! That’s a snack, right?
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I’m a mom to three boys, two cats and a dog. I love reading (obviously!) and I’m also working on writing a novel of my own.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
This is my first read-a-thon, and mostly, I’m looking forward to the interaction with other readers, and just seeing how much I really can read in 24 hours.

Are you participating in Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon? How is it going for you?

Unlock the Muse – April 25, 2018

It’s the last week of April. My Camp project has been of mixed success so far. I am currently caught up on my word goal. I’ve reached ‘the end’ on one of the two stories I am working on this month. On the flip side of that, I have often found myself struggling to find time for writing around soccer practices, soccer games, school concerts and so on. And when I do find time, I waste a lot of it on Twitter and Goodreads. But I am having fun, and that is, after all, what Camp should be, isn’t it?

Here is your writing prompt for this week:

Go to your local mall and buy some postcards of your city. Use the postcards as stationary to drop a brief “hello” to friends.

This seems the perfect prompt for Camp month. If you’re Camping, send a post card from camp and let others know what you’re up to this month and how you’re doing on your writing goals.

While I haven’t exhausted the wisdom contained in the little book, Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, I have decided that I’ve shared enough. The problem is, I haven’t started reading another writing craft book.

So instead, let’s take a look at the writer’s reference shelf. Every trade has its specific tools designed to help get the job done right. As a writer, that means reference books. There are a few most writers consider essentials: a good dictionary, thesaurus and a “what to name the baby” book. Right?

Then, if you’re like me, you have a few (or a few dozen!) other specialty reference books and writing craft books. Some of the more unique titles on my reference shelf:

Creating Characters Kids Will Love, by Elaine M. Alphin
Medieval Wordbook, by Madeleine Cosman
Wicked Words, by Hugh Rawson
Word Dance: The Language of Native American Culture, by Carl Waldman
The Complete Fantasy Reference, by Andrew I. Porter
Editing Fact and Fiction, by Irene Gunther & Leslie T. Sharpe

What’s on your shelf?

In honor of Camp NaNoWriMo, April 2018 coming to a close this week, here’s my “post card” from Camp with a quote from NaNoWriMo’s founder:


Happy writing!

Please consider sharing your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask! Put it in the comments below, or send your question by email here:

Readathon Prep: The TBR List

I don’t know if it’s really an official reading list for the April 2018 Dewey’s 24 Hour Reathathon. Since this is my first time participating, I’m not really sure what to expect. In order to maximize my reading time, however, it makes sense to have some sort of list available from which to pull a book if and when I need it, rather than agonize over what to read next. So, here goes.

From my 2018 Reading Challenge list:
My first priority will be the books next up on my current reading list for this year. In this case, the final four books in Cassandra Claire’s Mortal Instruments series:

City of Glass
City of Fallen Angels
City of Lost Souls
City of Heavenly Fire

Also, I won’t be finished with Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell, by Susanna Clarke or Shadowplay, by Tad Williams, so I may spend some time on one or both of these.

For a change of pace:
If I need to change things up during the day, I think I’ll pull a few other books aside just in case I need them. Like continuing with some old and new favorite series:

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling
Grave Peril, Jim Butcher
The Sea of Monsters, Rick Riordan
Firefight, Brandon Sanderson

or, some recently acquired ebooks and/or audio books:

The Gender Game, Bella Forrest
Because You Love to Hate Me, Ameriie
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Taylor
When the Moon is Low, Nadia Hashimi

I will also make time for my daily scripture reading as well as reading with my kiddos. They have a variety of books from their school library, plus we are reading through the Chronicles of Narnia series, currently, The Silver Chair.

This feels like a huge list, and obviously, I won’t read them all. I’m not that good. Not by half. Still, I can see where choices will be a good thing in order to press through 24 hours straight of (mostly) only reading.

Unlock the Muse – April 18, 2018

Less than half of April remains. It is flying by too quickly. Even so, my youngest son, whose birthday is still a couple of months away, keeps asking me how many more days until his birthday. One day, when I told him it was still a long time away, he burst into tears. Oh, to be a child again, when every day is almost an eternity. Without the agony of all that waiting, though please.

Sometimes the best way to break out of a rut and find inspiration is to walk away from the computer, the notebook, the desk, and get some physical exercise. Find new surroundings and just be alive. In that light, here is this week’s writing prompt:

Lie down in your yard and feel the curve of the earth beneath you. Ponder the infinity of the universe and the finiteness of humans, then write your own account of why we’re here. Don’t confine yourself by fact. Let your imagination lead the way.

I hope you aren’t getting tired of me using examples from the book Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. It’s just full of great encouragement! Take this essay, “Why I Write,” for example. In this essay, Goldberg offers some solid advice on beating back the nay-sayers and the self-doubt. She says:

Why do I write?” It’s a good question. Ask it of yourself every once in a while. No answer will make you stop writing, and over time you will find you have given every response.

1. Because I’m a jerk.
2. Because I want the boys to be impressed.
3. So my mother will like me.
4. So my father will hate me.
5. No one listens to me when I speak.
6. So I can start a revolution.
7. In order to write the great American novel and make a million dollars.
8. Because I’m neurotic.
9. Because I’m the reincarnation of William Shakespeare.
10. Because I have something to say.
11. Because I have nothing to say.

She concludes with these words:

When the old nag in you comes around with “Why are you wasting your time? Why do you write?,” just dive onto the page, be full of answers, but don’t try to justify yourself. You do it because you do it. (emphasis mine)

Within the essay she encourages you to sit down and write the answers to that question. Why do you write? There is no right answer, and tomorrow it may change. But ask yourself the question. Then move on and keep writing.

When I went looking for an interesting word to profile this week, my sister offered up distraction. I think she thinks I’m distracted from my writing goal! Maybe she’s right, but here goes.




1. A thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else.

2. Extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.

Distraction dates back to the mid-15 century, “the drawing away of the mind,” from Latin distractionem “a pulling apart, separating,” noun of action from past participle stem of distrahere. Meaning “mental disturbance” (as in driven to distraction, etc.) dates from circa 1600. Meaning “a thing or fact that distracts” is from 1610s. (from

I kind of like this description from

Distraction is the process of diverting the attention of an individual or group from a desired area of focus and thereby blocking or diminishing the reception of desired information. Distraction is caused by: the lack of ability to pay attention; lack of interest in the object of attention; or the great intensity, novelty or attractiveness of something other than the object of attention. Distractions come from both external sources, and internal sources. External distractions include factors such as visual triggers, social interactions, music, text messages, and phone calls. There are also internal distractions such as hunger, fatigue, illness, worrying, and daydreaming. Both external and internal distractions contribute to the interference of focus.

I’m not distracted, I’m daydreaming! A perfectly legitimate writing exercise, right?

Happy writing!

Please consider sharing your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask! Put it in the comments below, or send your question by email here:

April Challenges – Writing & Reading

April seems to be a good month for challenges. Maybe it’s a good time to revisit those resolutions made at the beginning of the year. Time to renew efforts toward reaching goals. This April I have decided to challenge myself in my writing and my reading.

I’m currently participating in my eleventh Camp NaNoWriMo event. Could it really be that many? I had to count twice to be sure. But with two per year since 2013, it really is that many!

My goal this year is a nice, moderate 25,000 words. I’m working on two of my middle grade adventure stories from the series Silver Compass Adventures that I introduced back in 2016. I hope to finish at least one of them by the end of the month.

So far, I’ve made good strides on both stories. My word count has hovered around the “on target” mark, but mostly just below. I’ve designed a spaceship and written a ghost story. Both of these things were huge obstacles in completing my novels, so this is great progress.

I’ve also gone and done this thing. This maybe a little bit crazy sort of thing. I signed up to participate in Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon taking place on April 28. I learned about it by reading something much like this blog post, though I can’t remember exactly where. If you don’t know what it is, check out the web site. If you do know what it is, and maybe you’ve done it before, I’d love to hear about your experience!

It seems unlikely I can really read for twenty-four hours at the end of a month-long writing challenge, and on a day when I have soccer with the kiddos and a writers’ group meeting! Nevertheless, it sounds like fun. Crazy fun, to be sure, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

I think I will use this as an excuse to binge read the rest of the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I read the first two books last year, but I haven’t managed to get back to it yet. The remaining four are on my 2018 Reading Challenge list. I’d like to see how far I could get on a day dedicated (almost!) entirely to reading.

Still, being new to this 24-hour reading thing, I think I will have some other books ready at hand in case I need something different in order to keep going. Maybe something shorter and lighthearted. Perhaps a nice comfort re-read, such as Harry Potter, or something from that growing pile of middle grade novels I’ve been collecting on my Kindle!

Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo or the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon? Another writing or reading related challenge? I’d love to hear what your goals are for April!

House of Day, House of Night, by Olga Tokarczuk: A Review

I have been excited to read this award-winning book by Polish author Olga Tokarczuk (translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones) since House of Day, House of Night joined my 2018 Reading Challenge list as #44, a book tied to your ancestry. I’m an American, and like many Americans, my ancestry traces back to a number of European roots, Polish being one.

I wasn’t entirely sure where I wanted to go with this prompt, so I decided to start by investigating Polish authors. I found a couple of intriguing possibilities. Ultimately, I think it was this book’s description that appealed to me:

Nowa Ruda is a small town in Silesia, a region that has at times been part of Poland, Germany, and the former Czechoslovakia. When the narrator of Olga Tokarczuk’s House of Day, House of Night moves into the area, she discovers that everyone—and everything—has a story. With the help of Marta, her enigmatic neighbor, she collects these stories, and what emerges is the message that the history of any place—no matter how humble—is limitless and universal.

Tokarczuk’s richly imagined novel is an epic of a small place. A best-seller in Poland, House of Day, House of Night is the English-language debut of one of Europe’s best young writers. (from the back cover)

There is a very deep sense of place throughout this book, something that I think many Americans have never experienced. There are things that in the world of this place just are, like the ravages of war that trampled through multiple times as this particular territory changed political hands more than once. Things such as unexploded bombs and treasures buried and left behind by evacuees ever hopeful of returning.

The language in this book is absolutely beautiful. There are segments that are truly stunning. One of my favorites is this passage where the narrator decides she wants to be a mushroom:

If I weren’t a person, I’d be a mushroom. An indifferent, insensitive mushroom with a cold, slimy skin, hard and soft at the same time. I would grow on fallen trees; I’d be murky and sinister, ever silent, and with my creeping mushroomy fingers I would suck the last drop of sunlight out of them.

It’s hard to say why I loved this book. It’s a slow read, meandering and without a clear plot line. It is made up of little vignettes that at first glance lack any sort of cohesion. But they cycle back again and again with recurring themes and characters. Though not my usual sort of read by any stretch, I really enjoyed this book.

Unlock the Muse – April 11, 2018

It’s week two of April and I am barely keeping up with my Camp NaNoWriMo goal. I chose what I thought was a low goal of 25,000 words, but it has proven more challenging than I had hoped it would be. My hope is to have a completed first draft of a middle grade adventure story that takes place on a spaceship. I’ve had a lot of fun learning about spacecraft, space travel and all things robotic. And my story is beginning to take shape. There is still hope.

Your writing exercise for this week is:

Take a decorative calendar, and pick an image from one of the months. Create a setting based on the image you select. Choose randomly, or do this exercise for each month.

I love this prompt. For the last several years I have sought out a new calendar by the artist Ciruelo. His work includes a lot of dragons and fantasy artwork, and it is stunning. Many of the pictures evoke a story, and would work well for this prompt. Whatever calendar you choose, have fun, and be creative!

I think the essay “Write Anyplace” from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones just might be my favorite. In it she says:

Okay. Your kids are climbing into the cereal box. You have $1.25 left in your checking account. Your husband can’t find his shoes, your car won’t start, you know you have lived a life of unfulfilled dreams. There is the threat of nuclear holocaust, there is apartheid in South Africa, it is twenty degrees below zero outside, your nose itches, and you don’t have even three plates that match to serve dinner on. Your feet are swollen, you need to make a dentist appointment, the dog needs to be let out, you need to defrost the chicken and make a phone call to your cousin in Boston, you’re worried about your mother’s glaucoma, you forgot to put film in the camera, Safeway has a sale on solid white tuna, you are waiting for a job offer, you just bought a computer and you have to unpack it. You have to start eating sprouts and stop eating doughnuts, you lost your favorite pen, and the cat peed on your current notebook.

Take out another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write, just write, just write. In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the center of the chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write.

Life gets crazy. Breathe. Write.

For this month’s grammar lesson, let’s take a look at a few commonly misused words and phrases from the Strunk & White style guide.

Allusion. Easily confused with illusion. The first means “an indirect reference”; the second means “an unreal image” or “a false impression.”

Anybody. In the sense of “any person,” not to be written as two words. Any body means “any corpse,” or “any human form,” or “any group.” The rule holds equally for everybody, nobody, somebody.

Care less. The dismissive “I couldn’t care less” is often used with the shortened “not” mistakenly (and mysteriously) omitted: “I could care less.” The error destroys the meaning of the sentence and is careless indeed.

Effect. As a noun, means “result”: as a verb, means “to bring about,” “to accomplish” (not to be confused with affect, which means “to influence”).

Imply. Infer. Not interchangeable. Something implied is something suggested or indicated, though not expressed. Something inferred is something deduced from evidence at hand.

Happy writing!

Please consider sharing your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask! Put it in the comments below, or send your question by email here:

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas: A Review

I chose to read The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas for the 2018 Reading Challenge, #50 a book recommended by someone else doing the Popsugar challenge. When I joined the Goodreads group for this challenge, I was inundated with recommendations for amazing books. This one in particular grabbed my attention, and I decided I would read it. I was not a bit disappointed.

The Goodreads description of the book:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

The book opens with this traumatic moment, and proceeds to follow Starr through the aftermath. Both for her personally and for those around her.

The Hate U Give has a timely and relevant message. It is well-written, emotionally driven and thought provoking. I particularly liked how in the end, Starr’s dual identities come together. Her “ghetto” world and her prep school world collide. And she survives. Not only that, but she comes out the other side stronger than ever.

This is a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it.