Wordless Wednesday: Before and After Bookshelves

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A Month of Reading – Day 3, Nightfall

 This is the fourth post in “A Month of Reading

December fourth.  Well, dear readers, we’ve already hit it.  The first day of a daily blog challenge that I set for myself that I almost skipped, and it’s only Day 4.

It’s been quite a day – lots of running around, parenting, and more parenting.  My 7-year-old passed his karate belt test today (he’s up to orange!) and my 5-year-old was banned from watching TV because, well, he’s been a real brat lately, and I’m trying to condition him to not act that way.  As such, I spent a lot more quality time with him.  Huh.  Funny how that works.

I read him a book about two brother penguins called “Flip and Flop.”  I read the actual printed directions to Candy Land.  And last night I started reading a novel titled “Nightfall,” by Nelson DeMille.

For this I blame my mother and Cheryl Strayed.  My mother because she left the thick paperback at my house after she visited.  I scooped it up and put it in the pile for my mother in law, because it looks exactly like the thick mystery novels she loves.  Which I do NOT love.  No, I am a snob about books, in more than one way.  First, I judge books by their cover.  Sort of a shallow snobassery, but I am definitely guilty.  Those thick paperbacks with the sensationalist all caps titles have usually disappointed me, so I assume they are all empty volumes of overused phrases and poorly formed character arcs.  Second, I am a glutton for punishment.  If I start a book, I have to finish it, or the book stares at me from its resting place until I conquer what I obviously do not want to read within.  (Note to self, I can tell you which books are staring at me all over my house, the ones that are half or less than half read, in a future post within this little challenge.)

I also blame Cheryl Strayed because in wild, she accepted the gift of a James Michener book from a stranger along her journey, and tells the story about how her mother had loved James Michener, but then in college she herself was told that Michener didn’t write true literature, and so she had great disdain for Michener for the rest of her mother’s life, but after her mother died she felt bad and wished she hadn’t dissed her mother’s love of Michener, and so she read the book again while she hiked the PCT and realize she really did like Michener.


So I gave DeMille a chance.  I was instantly disappointed, but sometimes I need easy, mind-numbing distraction from life while I am relaxing in my bed before I am sleepy enough to close my eyes, and I’m two chapters in, so it’s pretty much a done deal.

NB:  My mother reads lots of great books.  Let’s not judge her by the cover of Nightfall.  She’s awesome in every way.

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A Month of Reading – Day Three, Query

 This is the third post in “A Month of Reading

December third.  This being Monday, it was time to get back to business.  I had writerly business, homemaking business, school business, and monkey business to take care of today.

Once I got the kids to school, I tackled the writerly business first.  I wrote a blog post the other day that, when I read it back to myself, seemed more like a stand alone personal essay than anything else I’ve written lately, so I decided to try and sell it to a magazine.  I know one must pitch the story to the magazine before the magazine will buy it, but I don’t have editorial contacts at print magazines that cover this topic, so I did some Googling.

And then I chickened out.  Maybe I shouldn’t say that.  What I did was turn to the familiar:  online outlets.  Online magazines and websites that I admire and read, and whose staffers seem somehow more accessible to me than those of the print world, probably because I already work for people like that.  Still, I had to pitch, and I wanted to follow an acceptable format, so I looked it up.  I love the internet.  Even if it’s wrong, it gives me a place to start, at least.

This post –  An Example of a Successful Query Letter - gave me a real-world format to follow, and the first thing I did today was pitch the essay to an editor I know.  I happily checked this item off today’s to-do list.

Some other posts that I read were:

Rules For Success From Freelance Writers

The Query Letter Format

How To Write a Query Letter 

I joined reddit over the weekend to see if this would be a good social media site for both sharing my own posts and posts that I like, and also learning about new stuff to read.  It’s fairly stark in terms of design, and not necessarily intuitive to use, so I spent a few minutes reading up on how the site works.  I’ve known about it for a while, but it wasn’t until some writers in one of my Facebook groups have shared their fondness for it that I tried it, because look. It’s so…not pretty.  And I’m pretty sure I’m doing it wrong, because I’ve only gotten one point in 48 hours.

And because I had a ton of blog posts go live today, in which “a ton” means “four,” I spent some time reading my own stuff.  Sometimes I like to re-read it after it goes live, to make sure I wrote something I would read myself.  That’s the best way for me to tell that I am producing work that makes me proud.

How LASIK Is Just Like Childbirth on MomsLA.com.  “A human does not come out of a vagina, but the squeamishness factor is similarly high for me.”

Calabasas Can’t Hide New Restaurant Salt on CBSLA.com. “The Salt banana is still a mystery because it didn’t make it all the way around the table – instead, it was devoured along the way.”

Then there was the post I wrote last night that went live this morning, and there was an ill-fated post on my hyperlocal site that I had to take down because it needed a lot of editing, but I ran out of time and went to yoga, and then I came home and read airline websites because it’s time to fly my mother-in-law here to visit, and then it was time to get the kids.

And one more link tonight.  My friend Charlene gave me one of those friendly blogger awards.  I’ll address this in a future post, but you ought to check her out if you’re looking for new blogs to read, because Charlene is a great writer, and I helped her set up her blog.

Finally, just before I sat down to write this, I spent a few minutes reading through last year’s Christmas cards.  I finally pulled out our Christmas decorations, and the first box I always open is the one with Christmas cards, CD’s, books, and DVD’s.  It was nice to flip through the old cards, but also bittersweet.  In the pile were the last two Christmas cards signed by both my Nana and my Grampa together.  This year there will be simply, “Love, Nana.”


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A Month of Reading – Day Two, Still

This is the second post in “A Month of Reading

December second.  Today was the second Sunday we received an actual printed copy of the Los Angeles Times, delivered to our driveway, cloaked in 3 layers of plastic to protect it from the rain.  It’s been more of a constant drizzle here, but the skies have been gloomy and there’s a clingy chill in the air.  A perfect morning to linger in your PJ’s and work your way through the thick Sunday paper and several cups of coffee.

Not exactly, not in my house, anyway.  The kids were up before 7AM excited about the chocolate in their Advent calendars.  They fought and whined and watched the nails-on-chalkboard show “Fairly Oddparents” at a volume that I kept insisting be turned down.  All the while, I struggled to read more than one sentence in a row of different articles in the Times that caught my eye.

The first thing I picked up was a delicious supplement titled simply “BOOKS.”  It is a special holiday gift guide.  A few little articles about books and e-reading here and there, but the rest was a list of titles and I drank it in, dismayed at how many there were and how little time there is to actually read.  But at least I’ll never run out of things to read, right?

The rest of the LA Times sat fanned out on the kitchen table for most of the day, while our family engaged in its regular Sunday activities – church, two football practices despite the drizzle, and me doing housework and never-ending laundry.  Along the way I stopped and read some things on the computer, and this article on the New York Times website caught my eye, shared by a fellow creative type on Facebook: The Art of Being Still by Silas House.

The title alone grabbed me because it’s Sunday, and we went to church, and when we are in church a voice whispers in my head throughout the hour (sometimes plus) of sitting, standing, kneeling, shuffling, and shushing the boys.  It says “Be still.”  Over and over again.  It is as if Sunday morning mass is the one time in my life during which I am meant to quiet my mind.  I don’t think it on purpose.  It started last year around this time, when we returned to regular churchgoing as a family after a years-long absence.

The article is an essay by House about quieting the writer part of your mind so that you can, in fact, write.

We are a people who are forever moving, who do not have enough hours in the day, but while we are trying our best to be parents and partners, employees and caregivers, we must also remain writers.

He says that many writers he knows spend more time talking about writing than actually writing.  I think I’ve been doing that for a while.  And though it may seem to some people like I’ve been writing a lot, and in many places, well, to you I say that’s true, but it’s not the writing I imagine I would do if I was given the chance to do any kind of writing I desire.

A favorite quote of mine is from the writer Natalie Goldberg, who says “Shut up and write.”

Yes.  Exactly.

Photo by Svein Halvor Halvorsen

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