Risk (why my book is like a Trireme)

When I was growing up, the video game my brothers and I played constantly was Civilizations III. It was so much fun. We would compete with each other to see who could discover Railroad technology the earliest (I think my older brother holds that record for something like 600 BC but it was awhile ago and I could be wrong).

One of the first major exploration units you can build in that game is a Trireme. It’s cheap, and it’s the only boat you get until you discover more technology, and it’s really good for just scouting out your own continent. It can only go around the edges of the land and not out into deep sea. So the early game strategy was to build your first city next to an ocean square, then build a Trireme as soon as you could and launch it to explore around your continent. That way, you would know if you are on a small island or a continent and give you a sense of how much space you have to expand. It was also a good way to scout and see if there are rival civilizations in your space. And if you were really lucky, your Trireme would spot a piece of land one square away with no deep ocean in between the two, and it could jump over and explore a second body of land.

But more often than not, it didn’t discover additional land and that’s where you had to make a choice. Do you send your Trireme out exploring into the deep ocean, knowing it has a high chance of sinking after every turn? Or do you just keep it close by to defend your territory, even though it’s no good at defending (but it can alert you to incoming enemies)?

I always sent my Trireme out. They almost always sank. But once in awhile, they would strike land before they did and then I’d have an advantage on my opponents.

“Failure is the cover charge to live the human life. How many things have you not done because you were afraid to fail?” My pastor said in a sermon a couple Sundays ago and I’ve been thinking about those words ever since. And I asked myself what I was afraid to fail at. The answer came quickly: self-publish my book.

I’ve never had any intention of letting fear of failure hold me back. I’m too excited. But I still have fears. I realized that I could easily fall into the trap of tweaking things ad nauseam hoping to get them just right and never actually publish because things aren’t perfect.

But this book is a Trireme. I’ll never know what’s out there if I don’t send it out. I could keep it at home, just kind of sitting around, but that’s not what it’s made for. Maybe it will sink, but it’s not doing anything if I don’t send it out.

My plan is to self-publish sometime this year, but I am tentatively and optimistically hoping for end of May. If you want to know when it’s ready, sign up for my brand new newsletter here.

Thanks for reading! (And by that, I mean thanks for reading my blog, and just reading books in general because that is a wonderful thing.)


More reading recommendations

Hey there,

My life is still crazy as can be with two kids. My son has turned 2, and is potty training and learning how to read already. My daughter is content to wiggle and giggle, but will be crawling soon. As busy as I am, everything is only going to get busier.

So for now, all I have for you is an update on what I’ve been reading.

My 6 favorite books read in 2017

51s31EB8dyL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Uprooted by Naomi Novik – I can’t believe I didn’t hear about this book earlier. I LOVED this book. It’s not only the best fairytale retelling I’ve ever read, it’s the best fantasy book I’ve read in a long time. I really liked Novik’s Temerraire series, and she managed to bring the same awesome writing to this book, but with a completely different feel. She’s a great writer, and I am in awe. She actually just released a limited illustrated edition of this book which had me drooling for hours. Too bad they only made 175 of them.


91rygugDY9L.jpgThe Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson – Such a good book! I am really disappointed there isn’t a sequel because I wanted to snatch it up right away after I finished. I found this to be the most compelling and interesting of Sanderson’s magic systems. Just goes to show that no matter how many magic systems are out there, you can create something new. I really hope he’s going to write a sequel someday. His comments on writing a sequel can be found here. As a writer, I totally understand why he hasn’t yet and what stands in his way. But if he ever does start to write it, I will be haunting his social media sites like crazy to find out everything about it I can.

22181034Mort(e) by Robert Rapino – Military-Animal-Sci-Fi/Fantasy-Dystopia-Adult-version of Homeward Bound. So basically, everyone should read this and witness the frightening journey of Mort(e), a cat who gained human intelligence and fought in the human-animal war, but fought on…well, I think he fought on both sides? Really, he had his own goals the whole time and the war just got in the way. I read this little by little on my iPhone in the dark while rocking my son to sleep every night. And since I was pregnant at the time with my daughter, rocking him to sleep on my stomach wasn’t exactly the most comfortable, and my ability to breath would slowly get cut off the more he relaxed and put his weight on me until finally I texted my husband to come in and hoist him into the crib for me. But I loved it because I got a little further in the adventure every night. And I discovered that this was one of those books you really do want to read in the dark. It added to the thrill.

33916024Sourdough by Robin Sloan – It’s no Mr. Penumbra, so try to ignore the fact that it’s written by Sloan. It is still excellent, but not as enjoyable if you’re expecting more of the same. Though it did bring yet another fascinating aspect of San Fransisco to my hungry imagination. And Sloan’s writing is great. A woman programmer who is slowly loosing her soul at her job stumbles into making sourdough bread and it changes everything. She combines technology with baking and intrigue ensues. Ever since reading this, I have been searching for the perfect sourdough and spicy soup combination, trying to recreate the experience from the book. I had a lot of questions after reading it, so I emailed Sloan himself. And he responded quickly. Twice. He not only writes great stories, he is accessible to his readers and that made this read all the more fun.

61i58xDQ3YL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Illuminae by Amie Kaufman – Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful book. This book is something between an “Ology” book and a graphic novel with its splash pages and unique layout. The story is funny, thrilling, scary, and–I mean there are space zombies and hackers, and one of the least annoying love stories I’ve ever read, so. You should go out and buy this book immediately. Buy the physical book. The beauty is in the printed pages and I think some of that is probably lost in an audio book or ebook.


136814Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle – A must-read for any artist (and especially for Christian artists). This answered questions about art that I’ve been asking since I was 8 years old. Of course, no one would ever think to give such a book to an eight year old, but I sure could have used it! This book was very inspiring, especially during the days when I didn’t want to write.



All books that I read in 2017:

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet by Jamie Ford (2 stars)

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman (5 stars)

Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle (5 stars)

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (4 stars)

Diastasis Recti by Katy Bowman (3 stars)

Sourdough by Robin Sloan (5 stars)

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (5 stars – re-read)

Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan (4 stars)

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (4 stars)

Derelict by LJ Cohen (4 stars)

Turquoiseblood by Cecelia Isaac (3 stars)

Grand Theft Octo by Neils Saunders (4 stars)

Mort(e) by Robert Repino (5 stars)

The Mage and the Magpie by Austin J Bailey (3 stars, almost 4 though)

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson (5 stars)

Stations of the Tide by Michael Swanwick (1 stars – like, not even)

Uprooted by Naomi Novik (5 stars)

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer (4 stars)

Flyte by Angie Sage (5 stars)

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest (4 stars, almost 3)


This is why I haven’t blogged lately

A month ago, a tiny little person was placed in my arms and now I can’t imagine my arms not being filled with her coos, wiggles, and snuggles constantly. We are all doing well and adjusting to our new normal.

Hopefully that new normal includes getting back into blogging. Sorry for the lack of posts, everyone! But you know, not really sorry. I mean, look at her! She’s so darn cute!

How to clean my living room

Hi all. Sorry for the absence of posts but I’ve been on vacation. And even though I thought I was going to get a ton written during vacation, including blog posts, I just didn’t. Turns out I needed the vacation to truly be a vacation and not be productive. As a working mom who’s also trying to publish a book, this was a hard conclusion to come to. All that time felt lost. But now that I’m back, I realize it wasn’t lost. It was needed. I have a renewed resource of creativity and perspective.

So while you wait for me to write gripping and dramatic blog posts about the lost art of reading, here’s a quick analysis of how I clean my living room.

  1. Sit down on one side. Pick up everything around you and “sort” it by tossing it in various directions. Books get tossed towards the book stack. Toys towards the toy bins. And non-toy toys towards the kitchen. (You know, those things you let your toddler play with to buy you time but aren’t actually toys? Like spoons and wrappers and cardboard boxes.) You are sorting, but your toddler thinks you are playing with him. It’s a win-win. (Don’t wait to do this during nap time. Nap time is too valuable to waste on things that can be done while toddler is awake.)
  2. When you are certain you have gotten everything you can reach, (remember the goal is to move as little as possible, especially if you’re pregnant like me), move to the other side of the living room. Repeat the process for each section. Except when you get to the toy bins, put the toys in the bins, etc.
  3. Dig around the couch cushions and unearth all the books you hid after reading them for the 17th time. Unless you’re still tired of reading them. Then just leave them there.
  4. By the time you get to the last section, you should have a pile of laundry, trash, and kitchen utensils each. This part is tricky. Quick distract your toddler with something, then scoop up one pile and take care of it. He still sees these things as toys, so make sure he doesn’t see you throwing away those wrappers or putting that spatula in the dishwasher.
  5. When you return from taking care of the last pile, the toddler will have scattered a few more toys around the living room. You can either do one last quick sweep and put these away, especially if it’s nap time, or just accept that there will always be a few toys lying around. If you have extra energy, get out the vacuum and take care of all the cheerios. My toddler thinks the vacuum is a signal to start a dance party, and he happily runs circles around me while I do it. If I still have energy after that, I’ll turn on his favorite music and we’ll continue dancing. This helps keep him from dragging out more toys, too.

Above all, remember to never leave the living room with empty hands. If you are going somewhere else in the house, chances are high there’s an item in the living room that needs to be put away there, too. So just take it with you.

That’s how I do it, folks. Now that you know how, you can come over any time to practice if you want. 😉

Reading Hacks

Reading is so important and I think largely undervalued. Even in my own life, even though I strive to always be reading something.

Here are a few ways to make it easier, both time-wise and budget-wise.

Time-saving Reading Hacks

  • Take the plunge into audiobooks. They make sitting in traffic so much more enjoyable, make working out something to look forward to, and cleaning the house fun. I have a hands-free connection to my car that connects with my phone automatically which makes things really easy. I also have a dedicated set of earbuds in the pocket of my cleaning apron so I don’t have to go looking for them when I want to just jump right into household chores. And once I’m no longer pregnant and get back into a workout routine, my goal is to have a dedicated set of earbuds stashed in my gym bag too. You could even take the Immerse or Die approach to working out (see Jefferson Smith’s blog here).
  • Get into the eBook scene. If you haven’t already, find a way to read eBooks on a device you carry with you always. It’s so lovely to have thousands of books at my fingertips where ever I go. And I can always fit in a couple of pages while waiting, especially at the Doctor’s office with all my check-ups and pregnancy appointments. eBooks are also a life-saver for me when I get overly addicted to Facebook. There have been so many times I’ll open my phone out of habit and start moving my thumb towards the Facebook app, only to sigh with discontentment at what I’m sure to find there. Then I remind myself that I could entertain myself by reading instead, and I open the kindle app. In seconds, I’m immersed in reading instead of scrolling through endless updates that may or may not interest me.
  • Put stacks of books throughout the house where you are likely to crash. Keep each stack to 2 or 3 books, small enough to not seem overwhelming. These tend to crop up on their own around my own place, but it might help to be purposeful about it. Bedside table, next to the couch or your favorite tv watching chair, etc. Not only will you have a book beside you when you are most likely to have time to read, if your significant other wants to watch something on tv that you don’t, there’s no need to argue. You get to read and they get to watch what they want.
  • Don’t waste time on books that don’t interest you. This is a hard one for me. I have this thing about finishing every book I start, and reading things out of obligation rather than genuine interest. But really, your reading time is too valuable for that. Don’t be afraid to put a book down if it fails to hook you in the first couple chapters. I mean, give every book a decent chance, of course. And recognize when you’re so distracted by life that even Harry Potter wouldn’t hold your interest. But if a book isn’t worth investing in, move on. It is important for the cultivation of your reading habits that you don’t start to think reading is boring.
  • Get on goodreads.com. It’s Facebook, but for books, and is a wonderful way to organize your reading and even motivate you to get into the rhythm of it. You can make shelves of books you want to read next and record what you’ve already read. Goodreads is fun and a neat way to discover new reads, but what I really love about it is the organization of my reading world. I don’t have to spend time wondering what it was I was wanting to read next because it’s already on my “want to read” shelf.
  • Participate in a reading event/marathon! Call your reading friends together, grab a bunch of books, snacks, and tea, and just sit around all day reading. Sometimes it’s just easiest to plan a special event for it than it is to find time here and there. Because when something is an event, it sounds a lot better of an excuse than “I’m just going to go home and read.”


Money-saving Reading Hacks

  • Libraries! Obviously. Try to get into a nice rhythm of checking out a new book and returning the last one every week or two to prevent late fines. Also, if you make friends with your librarians, they can help you find things of interest to you. Librarians are important!
  • Take a look at BookBub.com. I was skeptical at first, but then I checked it out and suddenly I had 20 new free books to read that somehow accumulated on my kindle over the course of two weeks. If you’re not picky about only reading bestsellers, or if you want to discover new indie authors, BookBub will fill your inbox with notifications of when books in your favorite genres or by your favorite authors go on sale. Most are 99 cents or free.
  • Goodreads.com again. Authors or publishers will frequently host giveaways of books. If a book that’s being offered as a giveaway is on your to-read shelf, Goodreads will send you an email to let you know. You can also browse their list of currently active giveaways, and sign up for emails to notify you if books on your to-read shelf go on sale on amazon.
  • Audible Daily Deals. If you want audiobooks, but don’t want to pay the $15 subscription every month, get on the Audible Daily Deals email list. They’ll send you an email a day letting you know which audio book is available for 2.99 or less. Not every day will be something you want. But most days I did find something I wanted to read. If you want to save money, I suggest you pay for one or two months of audible, then buy the discounted books from their daily deals until you have enough to keep you busy for the next several months, then suspend your account. I ended up with a couple hundred hours of audio books this way, which I’m still making my way through, for much less than if I had paid $15 per month to get a book a month.
  • Discount Book Stores. I personally like Half-Price Books, but they may not be in your area. They usually have some kind of sale around every holiday.
  • Kindle Unlimited is also a thing, though I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. I’ll admit to downloading dozens of books just to support their authors, but then never getting around to reading them. But Kindle Unlimited pays authors by how many pages are actually read, since that’s a thing that can be tracked now. (So, if you’re looking to support authors, make sure you read as much of the book as interests you.) If you pay for amazon prime already, you’ll have access to free books through Kindle Unlimited. If not, look at how much you are reading and spending on books and decide if a KU membership would be worth it ($9.99/month).


Any suggestions to add to these? Let me know! Hope this helps you cultivate more reading in your life.

Seasons of Breathing

There’s this concept of breathing in, as in a season of life when one just needs a little time to lean on others, to receive, to be quiet and not do a ton of things. Likewise there are seasons of breathing out when one needs to give, support others, be more proactive and take on a bunch of projects.

The season of breathing in, for me, is the scariest. When I’m in it, it seems like it will never end and I start to worry if I will ever get the chance to breath out again: to create works of art for others not just myself, to make meals for those in need even when they don’t ask for them, to go the extra mile when I have a bright idea on how I could uniquely brighten someone’s day. But instead I find myself having all these great ideas on things I could be doing, and the gentle voice of the Lord is saying “Stop. That’s not what I have for you right now.” It’s scary to me because it feels like being thrown back into adolescence, to a time when I couldn’t do things for myself. It’s scary because it requires vulnerability and reliance on others. It’s scary because it feels like weakness.

Being pregnant is a huge long period of breathing in. So it’s no surprise that I find myself antsy and wishing I could breath out. There is a dam of creativity that has been building up this whole time, which makes it oh so tempting to jump into projects the moment they pop into my head. I’m trying so hard not to do things like start a massive garden, launch an Etsy store, or get a puppy. And that is the beauty of being a writer.

It’s portable. I can write anywhere. Even if its on my phone or a post-it note. It can be picked up and set down again. I can set my own deadlines, and if they aren’t met, the consequences aren’t catastrophic. Plus so much of writing has to do with thinking things out ahead of time, which I can do in the car or waiting in line or when I feel like a beached whale and my pregnant belly makes it hard to get up to do something.

But all these micro-writing sessions squeezed into the in-between spaces of my life only barely stave off the imminent creative crisis. Soon the dam will burst, and I’m hoping I can time it right. I’m hoping that something big will be able to happen in October, a specific something. I will have had over nine months of building up to it, so keep a look out. It may just happen. If not October, sometime soon after.

I want to leave this post with a quote from Madeleine L’Engle that doesn’t have a whole lot to do with rhythms and breathing out or in. It just seems appropriate somehow.

“I have advice for people who want to write. I don’t care whether they’re 5 or 500. There are three things that are important: First, if you want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you. Where you just put down what you think about life, what you think about things, what you think is fair and what you think is unfair. And second, you need to read. You can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader. It’s the great writers who teach us how to write. The third thing is to write. Just write a little bit every day. Even if it’s for only half an hour — write, write, write.”

Sounds like good advice to me.

We need librarians more than ever

I read a quote somewhere a few years ago, (I searched but can’t remember where…maybe a Librarian can help me find it someday), that said something along the lines of “We need libraries less than ever before, but we need librarians more than we ever did before.”

As I’m delving into the crazy world of publishing, I’m getting a glimpse of just why that is.

A librarian’s job used to be providing scarce information to those who depended on it. Now, a librarian’s job is to help users navigate an overabundance of information of varying quality. We have so much information at our fingertips that we no longer need to go to a special place to get it. I rarely visit a library anymore. Usually it’s checking out an electronic book from the library on my kindle. And so many of us are trying to be our own librarians. It’s frustrating. How many times have you tried to search for something on google, only to spend an hour sifting through information to find what you need?

Don’t get me wrong, I love being my own librarian. It lets me discover new things I didn’t know I wanted to know. But when it really counts, and I really need to keep my internet distraction time to a minimum, it sure would be handy to have someone to talk to about what I need who could point to it on a shelf and say “this section here, and you don’t know it, but you really should also check out this section because it relates”.

Publishing has had what I consider a sordid past with gatekeeping. I really don’t like the concept of gatekeeping at all, because it implies that someone is censoring what stories I get to read and don’t get to read. But gatekeepers are not the same as librarians. Gatekeeping is censorship. But librarians are guides. They don’t exclude or bar any information from being available. They simply provide a helping hand in me finding what I am looking for.

So how do we find good librarians? Specifically, how do we find the books that we want to read without knowing we want to read them? I tend to gravitate towards book review blogs, whose voices I have come to trust. And of course there’s always word of mouth and recommendations from friends. Every once in awhile I take a chance on a book I’ve heard nothing about just for the fun of discovery. But for the most part, I find my favorite books through a plethora of librarians, even if that ‘librarian’ is a genre category on amazon.

As someone trying to self-publish, this is a little inconvenient. How do I get my book into the hands of readers if I don’t know the librarians who are guiding them towards it, or if there are many librarians? I’m still working on this one. Obviously, I could form friendships with book review sites then ask them to review my book when it comes out. And I probably will. But it seems like there’s more than that.

If Chris Baty, founder of nanowrimo.org, is correct that “the world needs our stories”, and I think he is, then there’s got to be a way to connect that need with those of us who are telling stories. I suspect the key is librarians in many forms.

Why I’ve Decided to Self-Publish

Oh the things I could say about this. I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading and researching and asking for advice about traditional publishing and self-publishing.

To me, traditional publishing has always been a bit of a pain. It is slow to publish and slow to pay authors. It plays gatekeeper between readers and writers, often preventing the good as well as the bad from being published. The author looses a lot of creative control when it comes to things like title of the book, how the cover looks, and sometimes traditional publishing even requires writers to take out or put in text they don’t want to. The author has no control over price of their book, and they only receive a few cents on the dollar for every book sold.

Plus, the hoops one has to jump through to get the attention of a publisher are agonizing. Once you have a contract with one, it doesn’t even offer the things self-publishing can.

Let me stop here for a moment and say that I have an intense respect for literary agents, despite my opinion that self-publishing is the way to go. Agents are awesome amazing people who work very hard to make writers’ dreams come true. I hope that in the future of publishing, their role expands instead of diminishes.

So, for me, there have always been barriers to self-publishing that in recent years, as the market has stabilized somewhat, have just disappeared.

1. The stigma attached to self-published writers and their works.

People used to think that if you self-published, it meant your work wasn’t good enough to be traditionally published. It may have even counted against an author if they decided to pursue a traditional path later on. That is no longer the case. In fact, in a lot of ways it’s the opposite. If someone manages to self-publish and sell a decent amount of books, they are seen as an entrepreneurial guru. They have proven that they have what it takes. In fact, traditional publishers are offering self-published authors contracts after they have already published with more and more frequency. I didn’t see self-publishing as an option for me before because I was told that’s for failed writers. How different things are now!

2. Distribution

Self-publishing was only good for eBooks. Five years ago, it didn’t seem like anyone I knew was reading ebooks so that didn’t seem like the format I wanted to publish in. Brick and mortar stores didn’t carry self-published books. It also was extremely important for an author to have their book in a brick and mortar store because that was how the majority of readers found authors they love.

Three things have changed. First, my own personal desire to see my book in a Barnes and Noble has greatly diminished. I hardly do any of my book shopping there anymore, so I’m less attached to it. I get most of my books online. Second, more people are reading ebooks and I think the majority of readers, even if they buy a print version, encounter books first online before they see them in a store. Third, if an author did wanted their book sold at a brick and mortar store, that is now possible. Not only is it more possible for a self-published author to get their books in stores, it is less important. It’s like a pincher movement meant to make this barrier for me dissolve into the aether.

3. My own view of myself

I used to abhor the idea of being a sales person or a marketer, especially when trying to sell something I created. But over the last two years, that has changed entirely. Now I can easily see myself doing all the things required to handle the business side of writing, including marketing and sales and taxes and all that.

It kind of came down to the realization that I really just wanted someone to hold my hand and believe in my projects enough to get them published, because I didn’t believe in them. Which is silly. If I don’t believe in them, how can I ask readers to do so? What I really needed was to write things I believed in.

I also fell in love with the business side of writing to the extent that the parts I wasn’t too crazy about I’m now willing to do. Remember how I said I really love literary agents? I’m convinced I would enjoy being an agent much more than I would being a writer. Well, with self-publishing, I get to do both things: write and manage the business side of writing.

I have a loooooooong journey ahead of me before I publish any of my writing. I am not like other writers who can write, edit, and polish a book in six weeks and have it on the market two weeks after that. I am a mother and I work full-time, and at some point this year I’m going to have another baby.

Make no mistake, self-publishing requires a lot of time from the author. Most success stories of self-published authors include something along the lines of writing for ten hours every day.

But at least now I know what path is right for me and my work, and I can make progress day by day.

If you want to talk more about publishing, I’d love to chat. Just leave a comment. Any advice for someone just starting on this journey? I’m all ears. 🙂

Book Recommendations

I don’t know how you can be a writer and not read. And read a lot. Yet that’s something I didn’t learn about being a writer until much later than I should have. I grew up thinking a writer just wrote stuff from their brain and never thought about putting material back into it to nurture creativity.

If you are not a writer, reading is still very, very important. It builds empathy. It gives you creative powers. It’s fun. It opens your mind. It’s relaxing. I don’t know how you can enjoy sitting in the sun with a cup of tea unless you have a book in your hands (or ears).

Reading is important.

So without further stuff to get in the way, here are my most ardent book recommendations:

Fantasy: Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones.

She wrote Howl’s Moving Castle, but in my opinion, Dark Lord of Derkholm is her best work. It’s super funny and very intelligent too. Probably a quicker read than most fantasy stories.

Sci-Fi: The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi. Also funny. But my oh my is it a fun adventure that massages the brain and ignites its creativity centers. The world-building is so delicately done that you don’t even realize all the things you know about the world in the first two chapters. The beginning chapter is probably one of my most favorite examples of how to begin a book. It’s just hilarious and breaks a lot of writing rules and still works.

Non-Fiction: Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle.

Yes, she wrote A Wrinkle in Time, but these are her thoughts on Christianity and Art. Mostly about art and I’ve found that it really helps me rediscover the artist inside myself when I am feeling uncreative. It’s like a creativity booster. I recommend reading it one chapter at a time and doling it out over a longer period, since you will need to dwell on the concepts she presents. Also, I find that after I read a chapter, I immediately want to go write, so I only get through about a chapter at a time. This book fed my identity as an artist in a way I desperately needed.

Historical Fiction: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

This book didn’t get as good reviews as I think it should have. It sounds like it’s a short, little romp into adventure with a lead female character. But really it’s an incredibly intense emotional roller coaster that is anything but short and little, because it will stick in your mind long after you finish reading it. It’s really good writing, too. And it made me feel like I could actually picture what things were like in WWII. I’m always a sucker for WWII settings, though. Something about the danger calls to me.

Young Adult: Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

At first I didn’t like this book, but then it grew on me, and then I realized how essential it is for knowing the current market of YA books. This is where books are headed: away from teenage vampires and wizards and towards adultier versions that are less silly. Even if you don’t relish the thought of reading YA, I believe this is an important read to keep your finger on the pulse of today’s publishing. I feel like this is the bridge from what we used to see in YA to what is next. I would recommend Sarah J Maas’ more recently published series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, but I haven’t read that one yet myself.

What am I currently reading? Too many books. You can check out my Goodreads shelf on the right (or below) or at www.goodreads.com/RJRugroden.

Thoughts on DIY MFA

A few years ago I kept asking myself the question if I should go for an MFA in creative writing. Every time someone would mention it or I’d see an ad, I’d think rosy thoughts about a writing utopia of classmates and teachers who would encourage me and me encourage them in turn and I would suddenly become the writer I’ve always wanted to be. Plus I’d make useful connections I could hopefully turn into a publishing career someday.

But then I’d look at the money and the time and the requirements and realize it wasn’t for me.

I stumbled upon this post the other day about a 1000 Day MFA that you do yourself. It reminded me of why I ultimately decided I shouldn’t do an MFA: the biggest benefit I would get from it is self-discipline. (There are others, of course: the mentoring, the connections, etc.) I realized what I really wanted was someone to stand over my shoulder and make me write. Make me read. Make me be disciplined. And I realized that if I really want to be a writer that badly, that person standing over my shoulder should be me.

So a DIY MFA sounds really appealing. I’m not so certain of the specific schedule laid out in that post, but I could certainly tailor my own program to fit my needs. (For instance, the schedule says read at least one novel a month. I can’t do that. I would be desperate for more like four books a month.)

Even if I don’t construct some version of my own 1000 day program, I think it’s important to think about daily habits and how serious this business of writing needs to be. If I am dedicated to my craft and want to accomplish the things I have dreamed about since I was a kid, shouldn’t I make myself into the kind of person who can manage such daily habits on her own without paying $20,000 a year?

(Just so you know, I greatly admire anyone who has gone through an MFA program. There are lots of benefits and reasons to do so. I’m just not in a place where it would benefit me. Perhaps when I’m a more mature writer.)