Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-Thon – April 2020

I haven’t been posting much lately about my reading progress. To be honest, my reading time has taken a hit since the stay-at-home order went into effect. Since the schools were closed, my children are distance learning and I am home from work to help them.

After three weeks of homeschooling, two of those official distance learning with the school, I’m ready for a break. It’s perfect timing then, for Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-Thon this weekend!

I have a pile of books I haven’t been able to get to since playing Teacher Mom. I’ll be working of this list:

The Clinic, by Jonathan Kellerman (currently reading)
Rage, by Jonathan Kellerman
Empire of Grass, Tad Williams (currently reading)
Obsidio, by Amie Kauffman and Jay Kristoff
Wonder Woman: Warbringer, by Leigh Bardugo (reading with eldest)
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, by Kwame Mbalia (reading with middle)
The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden (ebook)
Watership Down, by Richard Adams (audio)

Clearly, I will not be able to read all of these books. I do hope to finish at least one, and make progress on several.

On a side note, my eldest son might be joining me for the Read-a-Thon. At least to some degree. His line up includes:

Dogman: Lord of the Fleas, by Dav Pilkey
Minecraft: The Lost Journals, by Mur Lafferty

This weekend, I’m doing as little as possible, other than read, read read! In my time zone, the read-a-thon starts at 5 a.m. I’ll be starting in the dark and early. Assuming I can open my eyes that early.

Happy reading!

Unlock the Muse – March 24, 2020

When the unanticipated comes along and sidelines everything, it’s about all anyone can do to keep moving forward. Priorities have suddenly shifted in a massive way. From full-time employee, I’m about to become full-time homeschool mom. And I know I’m not alone in this new inside-out reality.

In the midst of all of this, it is all too possible to lose sight of the goals set earlier in the year. I know for myself, I have had very little interest in writing anything in the last couple of weeks. On some level, I want to write, but when it comes down to the actual work, I’m just quite simply, exhausted.

All I really want to say this week is wherever you are at in this global crisis we find ourselves in right now, hang in there. We will come out of this. We will come out of it changed, possibly scarred, but hopefully stronger. Have faith, hold on, care for one another and stay strong.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Start networking. If you write nonfiction, consider attending a business expo for article ideas. If you write fiction, consider joining a writing group. Write an essay about your goals.

In these unique and challenging times, your networking will likely need to occur virtually. But the good news is there is so much available online. Find a webinar in a subject that interests you. Join an online writers’ organization. Even during this time when social distancing is the present norm, we can still reach out to support one another and learn from one another. Even in these difficult times, we don’t have to lose sight of our goals.

Encourage
Because we can really a little positive right now, here’s a little fun from Rory’s Story Cubes. Use one, or use them all and have some fun.

StoryCubes22

Happy writing!

Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt: A Review

For the 2020 Popsugar Reading Challenge prompt #3, a book with a great first line, I chose to read Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt. I ran across this book sitting on my kitchen counter where my fourth grader had left it. He was reading it for school. Like any good mom, I picked it up and took a look at it to see what sort of material the school expected my children to read. I read the prologue, and I was hooked.

Here’s the first line:

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.

The metaphor is carried along for a few more sentences and the book comes back to this image again later in the story. As I read this line, I could feel the hitch in my breath and the anticipation that comes from being at that top position of a Ferris wheel. This is the sort of sentence that drops you immediately into place within the fictional story world.

This is primarily the story of Winnie Foster, a ten-year-old girl living at the edge of a wood. She’s bored with her extremely orderly life, strictly enforced by over-protective parents. It is also the story of the Tuck family, who after drinking from a magic spring, are unwittingly blessed – cursed? – with eternal life.

The Tucks have been living as discreetly as possible, and have managed to keep their secret for 87 years. Until Winnie reaches her breaking point and runs away from home. She wanders into the wood and stumbles on the Tucks’ secret. The Tucks take Winnie to their home with the goal of getting her to agree not to tell anyone their secret.

Winnie doesn’t know whether the Tucks are telling the truth, or if they are crazy. She wants to go home, but is at the same time, intrigued by the lifestyle of this other family which is so different from her own. The situation grows even more complicated when it turns out Winnie was followed to the Tucks’ home by a curious stranger who seems to know more than he should.

I enjoyed this book very much. It is written for children, so therefore short. It didn’t take me very long at all to finish it. It is funny and surprising and even a little bit sad. I’m not entirely sure it lived up to the breathless anticipation initiated by that opening line, but it is still a good read. My son enjoyed it, and was anxious for me to finish it so we could talk about it. If for nothing else, that would have made it worthwhile to read this book.

Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech: A Review

For Popsugar’s 2019 Reading Challenge, prompt #29 – a book with “love” in the title – I chose to read Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech. I wanted to use books from my overflowing bookshelves, but sadly, have no books whose titles contain the word “love.” I found this book by Sharon Creech when I went searching for books that qualified.

I was intrigued by the description, so I borrowed a copy from my local library. Goodreads describes the book this way:

Jack hates poetry. Only girls write it and every time he tries to, his brain feels empty. But his teacher, Ms. Stretchberry, won’t stop giving her class poetry assignments – and Jack can’t avoid them. But then something amazing happens. The more he writes, the more he learns he does have something to say.

This book is labeled a “novel,” but is written in the format of a poem, or series of poems. It is the story of Jack, a middle-grader, who learns a thing or two about poetry. It’s a story about a boy and his dog. It’s about a boy finding his voice.

This book moves fast. I read it in a single sitting. I think I would like to read it again sometime, a little slower, perhaps.

I enjoyed it so much, I immediately handed it off to my 9 year old son. I did finally get him to read it. My son learned a few things about poetry. For one, it doesn’t necessarily have to rhyme. Two, poems shaped like the object they are about are a little weird (his words). When I asked him if he would recommend the book to someone else, he said maybe. He rated it a four out of five, and asked me to get the next book, Hate That Cat. That sounds like a recommendation to me.

NaNoWriMo Week Five: Books, Basketball and the End of All Things

This week was our final in-person writing event for this November, and I was determined to finally get my word count caught up to par. And I did it! Thanks to the huge slog on Black Friday plus three days of writing 3,000+ words, I finally managed to catch up to where I needed to be to win.

I have been hugely distracted the past week and a half or so with the 2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The new list of reading prompts was recently released, and I have been unable to resist working on my reading plan for next year. I am looking forward to getting back some of my reading time since NaNo is over. Especially the precious reading time I get to have with my kiddos. Oakland and I can’t resist a good story.

Oakland19

Speaking of the kiddos, all three of my sons are playing basketball this winter, and their first practice came this week. They are on two different teams, but fortunately, both teams have practice on the same night at the same location. After the soccer/football season we just had, this is a huge blessing! Oakland and I were hoping to get in a few words, but alas, there was simply too much chaos for writing.

Oakland20

I made it to 50k! It was a rough go for most of the month, but now it’s finally over. I have 50,000 words of a novel I didn’t have just 30 days ago. It is the End of All Things!

Okay, so reaching the end of the first draft isn’t really THE END. It is, in fact, only the beginning. Now, I will move on to the next stage in this process and begin turning this hot mess of a novel draft into something more palatable. Rewriting, revising, editing. Rinse and repeat. I may, however, take a bit of a break in December to catch my breath, reintroduce myself to my husband and children, catch up on my reading, and celebrate Christmas.

Oakland21

I went into this NaNoWriMo November with an attempted plan for the novel I intended to write. The planning didn’t go as planned, but I think the novel still came out stronger in the end for all the pre-NaNo pondering. I have a lot of work still to do, but I’m now more excited than ever about this series of stories I’m writing.

For me NaNoWriMo is a place where anything can happen, and often anything does. Now that it’s finished for another year, I plan to move forward with this series in a less mad-dash sort of way until it’s finished.

NaNoWriMo Week Three: Monkey Bars, Guilt Monkeys and Other Fantastic Beasts

Welcome to week three of NaNoWriMo. If you’re writing along, I hope your month is going splendidly! I am still struggling with the word count, but ever the optimist, Oakland is still sticking with me. I refuse to give up, but I am starting to feel a little be stressed about my low daily word count. I need a big day to really make up for the difference.

This week started off with a holiday – Veteran’s Day. A day off with the kiddos, so Oakland and I had a play day. We hung out with the boys reading books, putting together a 1,000 piece puzzle and took a trip to the playground. While it was loads of fun, we didn’t get a lot of writing work done.

Oakland12

On Thursday nights in November, I host an online writing event I call “Thursday Throw Down.” In this game with other local Wrimos, each participant declares themselves for one side or the other. This week, the battle was Plot Bunnies vs. Guilt Monkeys. I declared myself for the Guilt Monkeys, because, well, the family, the job, all the other responsibilities… Oakland and I gathered up some of our favorites snacks and started writing. Guilt Monkeys pulled it off in the end, beating the Bunnies by all of 33 words. So far this month, these Thursday events have been the most productive for me, and I wrote around 2,500 words.

Oakland11

Everyone needs a break during NaNo, and my local group of Wrimos likes to plan some activities outside of writing just for this purpose. One thing we do each year is to choose a bookish movie that’s been released in November. This week, we went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Crimes of Grindelwald. And yes, Oakland went with me. The movie is fantastic!

Oakland15

Once again, the week ended with a three-hour writing session with my local writing group. There was a new member this week, and that is always fun! All in all, not a bad week. Possibly the best I’ve had so far this NaNo. I’ll finish the week around 17,000 words. Next week is a big holiday week, and I’m grateful I get to spend it with my family and friends. I’m looking forward to a little dedicated writing time and getting caught up on my word count!

NaNoWriMo Week Two: Underdogs, Distractions and Writing a Sequel

My NaNoWriMo progress has been less than stellar this week. For one reason or another, I am finding it difficult to focus the way I need to on writing my novel. My writing buddy, Oakland, has been with me for the duration, sticking by me despite my lack of success.

This year I’m writing book two of a planned series of five, and I can’t help but wonder if this is part of what is making NaNo difficult for me. There’s a reason, after all, the powers that be at NaNoWriMo HQ recommend writing a brand new novel. It’s hard to have the same level of creative abandonment for a project you’re already invested in.

Oakland9

I’m fortunate to be part of a vibrant community full of creative people. We have an active group of NaNoWriMo participants and a pair of dedicated MLs (Municipal Liaisons) who make November more fun. This week we had our local NaNoWriMo Kick-Off party where close to fifty people came together to write. If you participate in NaNoWriMo, but have never sought out a local write-in, I would encourage you to do so. The energy of a room full of other writers pursuing the same crazy goal is amazing. At our local write-ins there is also always goodies like coffee, tea and leftover Halloween candy!

If you follow football at all, you’re probably aware of the Raiders’ record so far this season. Ever the optimist, Oakland doesn’t seem to be bothered by this. He’s also not bothered by my dismal word count. And, as our fortune cookie from lunch one day this week reminds us, we should root for the underdog. (That would be me.)

Oakland10

Our busy week included a trip to the elementary school for Literacy Night where the Kinder, 1st and 2nd grade teachers shared information about reading and writing goals for their students. They also offered up tools and tips for helping these young students at home as well. Literacy is important to me, and as two of my boys fall within this age group, I was there to learn more about what they’re doing in school. Plus, we got to bring home a new book to read!

Oakland8

And speaking of reading, One of the biggest reasons I’ve struggled to stay motivated to write is because of the book(s) I’ve been reading. I’m working my way through the 2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge, and I started Gone With the Wind just before November. I had hoped to finish before NaNo started, but it’s a very large book. But a very enjoyable one, as you can see Oakland enjoying it now. Also, if you follow the Popsugar reading challenge, you’re aware the new 2019 challenge list went live this week, providing yet one more distraction I don’t need right now!

Oakland5

Our week ended with a writing session with my local writers’ group. Three of us showed up, plugged in our laptops, put on our headsets and got to work. Very little talking other than to greet one another, and we just wrote and wrote and wrote. I needed this badly, as I’m suffering from a Reading Challenge induced word-count deficit. We’ll finish the week at around 7,500 words, a far cry from the nearly 17,000 we should have by now. But I won’t think of that now, tomorrow is another day!