Thursday, April 30, 2009

My Summer Resolution

Most people associate resolutions with New Year's Day, but I find that I have a harder time being productive during the lazier summer months. So I'm going to make a resolution to be both more proactive and productive until the busier fall season rolls around. How do I intend to do that? Below are a few ideas up my sleeve:

Blog. 'Nuff said. That was one of the main reasons why I started this blog--to keep me writing!

Journal. Call it a blog in hard copy. I've been very sporadic with my journaling. I'm teaching a workshop in Personal Essays Through Journaling later this summer, so I'm making a concerted effort at getting back to this. It's true what they say--it's therapeutic.

Queries. Most writers slow it down during the summer, so it's the perfect chance for those of us who will not be slowing it down (not...not!) to get those pitches into the hands of editors. I got a jump start and send out a few last week. No bites yet, but I'm trying to be optimistic. Sending out queries regularly is just good practice.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Summer Reading List

The semester's officially over tomorrow, which usually means that I'll have more time on my hands to do some serious reading over the next few months. Between the used book sales at the libraries and going out of business sales at different bookstores, I admit I went a little overboard these past few months. My goal is to include more "classics" into my summer reading list. Below are a few titles that I plan to get to this summer:

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. I started this a few days ago, and so far it's keeping my interest. It was inspired by our most recent former First Lady, with a twist.

Still Summer by Jacqueline Mitchard. I read The Breakdown Lane last fall, which was one of the best books I'd read in a long time, so I have high hopes for this one.

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. A nonfiction work about the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. I normally like books by journalists, and am eager to get to it.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Coming off my final paper for my class, which focused on Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night, I thought I'd expand my list and check out a few other expat authors. This is Hemingway's memoir of life in 1920's Paris.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Both classics that I feel I should read.

This is just a brief sampling of the 40+ books that are in my "to be read" boxes and bags. Sigh.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Favorite Writing Music

I'm one of those people who just needs to have music playing as much as possible. I have the radio on all day at work, and of course when I'm at home, writing. I need to have background noise. Rather than having it distract me, I find that it helps me stay focused.

Between papers for class, my column, and my various other writing endeavors, I listen to a lot of music. I try to mix it up a little, but there are always some standards that I keep coming back to.

Here are just a few of my current favorites:

Enya, And Winter Came. With its lush melodies and, of course, that voice, the fact that this is technically a Christmas CD is really irrelevant. Some of the songs do have vocals, and to me they sound like they were recorded in an empty Gothic cathedral deep in Italy or Ireland. Just beautiful. And the instrumentals are lush enough and relaxing enough to get you right into that "writer's zone". Love it.

Enya, Paint the Sky With Stars: The Best of Enya. Yes, there's a pattern here. Say what you want about Enya, but in my opinion, there's not much music out there that helps you get into a better frame of mind than hers. I have almost all of her CD's, and with good reason.

Joni Mitchell, Turbulent Indigo and Hits. C'mon. It's Joni Mitchell--need I say more? These are 2 discs I reach for when I have a particularly long paper and just need a little extra push. I particularly love "Sex Kills" and "Turbulent Indigo" off that CD, and "Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody" and "Come In From the Cold" off of Hits.

Carly Simon, Reflections: Carly Simon's Greatest Hits. I love music by singers/songwriters from the '70's, and it doesn't get much better than Carly. Though oddly enough, I find that I replay tracks 9-16 over and over again, and most of those were among her best works from the 1980's. Go figure.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Online Dating Stories

I'm milking my online dating experiences for all they're worth. Besides writing my weekly column for Online Dating Magazine, I recently submitted 2 dating stories (one positive, one not so much) for an anthology on real-life online dating stories. I always knew those bad dates would be good for something!

There's something to be said for "It's all material". I truly believe that writes owe it to themselves to chronicle everything. It's very easy to get so caught up in living life that we often forget to take a step back and observe it sometimes, too. It helps to be perceptive, but jotting down those little moments that are so quick to forget is really invaluable. However, I've had some experiences--especially with folks I've met through online dating sites--that are just unforgettable, plain and simple.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This 'n that, here 'n there...

I'm hard at work (mostly...) on my final research paper for my Literary Criticism class. I think academic writing is the most difficult for me. Besides having to round up sources and cite everything correctly, it seems I never quite say it the way I say it in my head--the words get all jumbled in translation en route from my brain to the screen. So even though it sounds good mentally, nine times out of ten I make umpteen changes to a single paragraph. This particular paper is applying psychoanalytic theory (mostly Freud) to the book Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I'm also including a lot of biographical info, since it's all tied together in one big dysfunctional mass.

I'm also getting antsy because there are things of my own that I want to work on, and of course I have this itch to work on them now, when my paper (on which I'm being graded!) has a quickly approaching deadline. Sigh. Still, it's nice to want to do some things of my own again. I finally feel like I'm heading towards a really good place in my life, so that's given me some freedom to branch out. I'm anxious to see where it all goes!

Friday, April 10, 2009


Summer is traditionally a slow time for writers. I wonder if it's a coincidence that my motivation tends to flag around this time? I'm trying to combat this by putting together those queries that have been floating around in my head, but have yet to be put on paper. I'm hoping this will lead to interest from editors, obviously, and it'll be a good way to keep me writing through the lazier summer months. Summer is also the time when I catch up on my reading. I've been good with the book purchases and haven't gotten any in awhile--those of you who have been to my house have seen some of my "to be read" selections, but that's really just the tip of the iceberg. I'm hoping to make quite a dent in the pile(s). (I read 20 books last summer.) "Being productive" is all relative, I suppose.

Any other ideas for keeping those writing skills sharp in the summer?