Archive for the ‘Creative’ Category
A few tomato portraits from this season. It’s been a few years since I’ve taken fruit and vegetable portraits—err, looks like I filed a kombucha post in the wrong category as you will see if you click through that—and I got around to doing a few one day before canning a few weekends ago. Hopefully I can get out and do some more this summer!
Togo Trifle/Togo Trefle: These tomatoes have been fairly prolific this season but they have also been targeted heavily by the leaf footed bugs and as such I’ve had a ton of them rotting on the vine because of those pesky insects.
Rutgers: This tomato isn’t super special looks-wise but it does taste good and does make an easy tomato for blanching, peeling, and canning
Paul Robeson: Another tomato suited for canning, this one tastes good and has been the more prolific dark or chocolate type varieties in the garden this spring.
Cherokee Purple: I have not been getting many of these as I would have hoped for this season. In fact, most of the beefsteaks have under-performed this season.
Arkansas Traveler: This is looking a little more red than pink and I’ve not been getting many of them, either.
Pattison squash: Before the squash vine borers got to town on the squash vines I was able to get two squash off the vines. They are storing well on our cabinet and we’ll eat them soon.
Appalachian Odyssey by Steve Sherman: This Appalachian Trail memoir was written in the 70s and I both loved it and thought it could have been developed much more. What was most fascinating about this book was how it showcased the changes in the trail from 40 years ago versus now—it wasn’t completely off roads then! Not only that it also routed through towns that it does not route through now. Some of the sentiment was similar—the hiker hunger, trying to avoid unscrupulous people, etc. It actually reminded me of hiking the Florida Trail to some extent in how few people were hiking the AT in the 70s and the trail development. The book was a great perspective into a different era in long distance backpacking!
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett: I. Loved. This. Book. I want Ann Patchett to be my friend. This book was a collection of new and old essays that cover all sorts of topics, from her days trying out for a police academy in the name of writing an article to writing about the dissolution of her first marriage and then later how she eventually remarried. There are so many great things about this book. I listened as an audio version, read by the author, and it will warrant a re-read at some point in the future.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: I re-read this for my podcast and I have mixed feelings about the book after analyzing it with a different thought process in mind as well as with some distance from childhood. I would not call this a children’s novel per se, more of a young adult novel because I did not realize how many adult themes were hidden in the book. I’m not talking about sex here, just how children were treated and talked down to, as well as some interesting cultural references from the early 1900s. I think I’ll need to re-read A Little Princess to see how it holds up.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: A very short audio essay but you can also listen and watch here.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey: I started reading this one last summer sometime but put it down and never picked it back up. What a shame because I wasn’t that far from finishing it and I ended up wrapping it up one evening awhile back. The author had an unknown illness which lead her being bedridden for years. While at a caretakers house she had a plant in her room and noticed a snail living on it. It became a companion of sorts and eventually was moved to a terrarium where it could live better. The author describes her life while bedridden as well as elaborating on the life of a snail. It is a quiet, sweet book and a good one to pick up!
Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton: I think I’ve read Glennon’s Momastery blog a handful of times over the years, most of them before she became uber popular and an pal of Oprah’s. My familiarity with her has been mostly through other sites or magazines she’s written for and via social media. Therefore, I was not on any kind of bandwagon to read this book but after seeing enough people talking about it and it was available for download, I grabbed it. Glennon is a good writer and storyteller and as I was pretty much unfamiliar with most of her life story other than knowing she had addiction and eating disorder issues in the past, I knew not much else. I resonated with a lot of what she wrote in particular to women and feminism, the stay on the mat ethos, but by the end of the book I was left confused on how the book ended and by her post just prior to book release last August and now how she’s married to Abby Wambach. What happened in between the end of the book and last August? I mean, I did feel like her reconciliation with her husband was a little forced—she wasn’t 100% in it, you could tell—but he had betrayed her big time so what did you expect??? Anyway, very interesting and easy book, and if you need something to read this summer, pick it up.
Second Nature: A Gardeners Education by Michael Pollan:
Another book I started last summer but put down for unknown reasons. I actually finished reading it over a camping weekend earlier in May—hooray for being able to read in longer spurts again! While this book was published in 1991, written in the late 80s, it is really pretty much a timeless gardening narrative. I’ve not read any of Pollan’s other work though I’m familiar with him via the numerous articles and media stories he’s been on over the years, and this was a great introduction to his work. I was fascinated with the stories of the beginning of the organic movement as we now know it, the talk of seed companies that were just coming into existence that were seemed fringe but now are pretty mainstream. Fascinating book for gardeners!
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: After a bit of a slow start where I wondered where this book was heading, I ended the book wanting more and loving it! This YA novel—though, maybe high-school YA because of some very disturbing scenes re: Nazis and torture—is a fantastic novel for summer reading. There’s a second in the series with different characters and it looks like a prequel involving one of the characters from this novel and I plan on reading both. I’m also excited to see there there is maybe a movie in the works. Without giving away too much: basically the story is told from the points of view of two women in their early 20s living in the 1940s England during the war. One is an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot, the other is—without giving away much else, let’s just say also involved in the war effort. A plane crash in France and Nazis make this a fairly fast paced novel once you get into the book. Lots of holy crap moments sprinkled within.
Leave Me by Gayle Forman: I had a credit left on my loans for Hoopla Digital this month so I grabbed this last week in anticipation for the long weekend. It is an easy, beach-type read about a woman in her early 40s who has a heart attack and is trying to deal with the repercussions from the heart attack as well as some unresolved issues in her life with family. A fluffy book for the summer if you need something easy.
In the Middle Of
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer: This book! SO GOOD! I’m listening as an audiobook and it has taken me forever to ‘read’ it because I listen for an hour or two and then have to just ponder it. More about it when I finish.
The Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd: A compendium of essays from the Coffee + Crumbs ladies. A slow read, an essay at a time.
The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon: This is a Lord John Grey novel in the Outlander universe but has to do with Jamie during the years that take place for the Voyager book. So if you’ve read through that book in the series you are totally ok to read this book. I’ve had it for awhile and hadn’t read it but wanted to prep myself for the next tv season of the show coming up in September. Definitely worth picking up for those Claire + Jamie fans out there!
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: Had a really hard time with this audiobook despite everyone raving about it. Might have to try it on paper instead.
What are you reading?
With the recent time change we made some adjustments to our evening routine, the main one being that Forest’s bedtime was pushed back to 8pm-ish. Sometimes it is a little earlier, sometimes it is a little later, and of course being a toddler, some days he has his own intention for his bedtime. I’ve been loving that we get 1-1.5 hours outside after dinner in the evenings to play in the yard and to garden, or to take walks, though we haven’t done much walking the last few weeks. We’ve mostly played outside or bounced between the vegetable and flower gardens. It is pretty glorious to be spending these hours after dinner outside and I no longer feel as rushed to keep on top of the garden. Wandering around the garden and yard is something I really missed doing the last two summers. I would catch glimpses but not really get to enjoy it. Having it all back makes me incredibly happy!
That said, because Forest isn’t asleep and I’m not leaving his room at 8pm now I don’t have those two hours after his bedtime to myself. I might have an hour, but lately I’ve been crawling into bed and reading before I go to sleep. My night owl years seem to behind me, for the time being. Before I turned 30 I burned the midnight oil regularly and I was fine the next day. Even post-30 it wasn’t terrible but post-baby it is not doable. Rarely will I make it to 11pm and that’s because I’m vegging on the couch watching tv, not actually using creative brain cells. 9:30-10pm is when I call it quits these days.
With all of this I’ve lost about one hour of creative time in the evenings, even if I didn’t want to use it creatively, that’s still some ‘me’ time lost. Honestly, I’m trying not to think of this as lost time because it is also found time—time with Forest, time outside, etc. It’s the shift that I’m struggling with, where to throw all of the other things I want to do and figure out where to squeeze that. Yes, I know there are hours in the morning but I am not a morning person. I mean, yes, I do kind of enjoy when we get up at 7am and I can sit and drink coffee and wake up over the course of an hour but that doesn’t mean that I’m the type of person who jumps out of bed and can be ready to go run a mile or sit down and write 1000 words or draw something. My brain isn’t on. Can I process photos while drinking coffee? Yes. Easy. But I don’t always have photos to process. The time I can utilize would be weekends or during my lunch break.
So, here I am figuring out priorities for the next six months, until the time changes again and we switch back. I’ve definitely learned that with kids, everything is a season and it all changes from month to month, year to year, so I’m really trying to go with the flow. But it’s hard.
One thing I realized the other day was that I’ve put a mental block on where I create. I have this great space, the studio, but there’s a few things wrong with it at the moment. For one, it is too cluttered. I walk in the room and I feel overwhelmed about everything that I can do, so many projects!, and kind of shut down. I think about the things I should finish, feel guilty about the things sitting unfinished, and then think about everything I want to do—new projects! The space needs organizing, some clearing of projects, and some guilt associated with that to fly the coop. The other thing is that I just don’t have the time in this stage of life to dedicate to going over there. I think in the next year Forest will become more manageable about this sort of thing and I can take him over there to let him color while I work on things on weekends but until then, it isn’t a toddler safe space. Which means, I need to bring my creative stuff over to the house to work. So, I did. I grabbed some pencils and a sketchbook and brought them over. And I plan on trying to do that with other projects over the course of the next few months. Why I was limiting myself to where I could create, I have no idea. I crochet in the main house so why not do other things?
Below is going to be a brain dump of goals and ideas of what I want to prioritize. We’ll see where it leads!
- My Florida Trail book: About two weeks ago I finally heard back from a publisher with an actual review of the sample chapters and proposal I submitted to them. I’ve only mentioned this to Patrice because the whole thing was a blow to the ego. I’ve joined the rest of the world’s writers in this aspect. It wasn’t outright rejection, it was, hey, there are some changes to the book that should be done and if you change them you can resubmit. Some of them were infuriating and I might rant on Wild and A Walk in the Woods someday, but others were helpful and I will definitely take into consideration. It took me a few days to digest the review and after going through the typical grief cycle I felt better about the whole thing. Whether I resubmit to the publisher or not I will definitely be doing some more edits to the book and adding in a prologue with more backstory. And some more research thrown into the book for some details that were suggested. That’s going to take some time and ideally this should be my priority writing-wise. I do want to get this book out into the world, whether it is through a traditional publishing house or through self publishing; more people are hiking the Florida Trail and I want to get our hiking story out there!
- I have another memoir idea in my head and I started a rough version of it back in January but abandoned it because I didn’t like where it was going. I need to mull it over more and do some advanced planning on it. We’ll see where it goes but I haven’t really re-started it yet.
I absolutely love writing here at least once a week and would like to be here more. This might be where I shift my morning priorities because I might have enough brain power for blogging in the mornings. Every now and then I think about giving it up, so many bloggers have faded through the years, but I love looking back at my blog. It’s my personal journal of sorts.
I really miss doing art. I used to dabble in various mediums and have never fully embraced one specific type—I always did like mixed media in high school art! This is one of my mental blocks about being in the studio—feeling like I had to be there to create art. It’s time to bring the art to me. Right now I’m just going to draw in a sketchbook but I have a small watercolor book that I also want to fill. No goals in mind, just make simple art for myself.
I’d say the biggest chunk right now of my creative life would be gardening. Yes, gardening is creative! It’s essential for my mental health, getting outside and digging, even pulling weeds. Pulling weeds is meditative. Scoping for caterpillars and butterflies are something I need to see. Looking at the light in the evening soothes my soul.
I must garden.
I definitely have lulls where I don’t pick up my camera as often as I should. But it gets used frequently and I feel lost without it sometimes. I have times when I opt for the point and shoot method and other times when I want to document every tiny scene. I have an old SLR camera that was my grandfather’s that my mom gave me. I bought film over a year ago for it and I’ve never sat down to read the manual, to figure out how to use it. It’s been on my to-do list for far too long and it is time to move it up on the priority list.
Continue absorbing knowledge via audiobooks regularly and visually as able. If I ever feel lost, like I’m missing another piece of myself, it is because I’m not reading. Must read!
I guess those are my main priorities. There are several other creative pursuits I enjoy but they can easily be shuffled to other seasons or picked up when I find time. My problems is I enjoy a lot of different things creatively and want to dip into them all and that’s where I get lost in the weeds. I enjoy scrapbooking and would like to finish the book I started but I need to realize that having a modified scrapbook is what I need to do. Several years ago I printed out photos and just taped them into a journal and wrote something down. That is what I need to return to. Simple documentation. I get wrapped up in what I think I should be doing instead of what I want to be doing. I think cleaning up my studio will help with that. Sewing is another little item. I enjoy making little quilts (I mean, really basic blankets!) here and there but the last thing I need is another blanket in this house. And I have no desire to make clothes. Is it a square? I will sew that. But the pile of fabric I’m hanging onto needs to be pared down even more—I went through it about two years ago—and I could do a better job in organizing it. I have a t-shirt quilt that I started before we left Florida and I had the intention of finish it before Forest was born. It still isn’t finished. Should I just pack it away in a container until I *am* ready? Probably. It would reduce the clutter in my studio. I need to be ok with letting go of unfinished projects or those I’ve lost interest in.
So, in all of this I’m not sure what my real end goal was other than to get some of this outside of my head. Sometimes it is just easier to put it on paper so all of the things rattling around in my head can clear my brain, ya know?
What about you? Are you like me with a million ideas and no idea where to focus them? What are your creative goals?
Hi, my name is Misti and I’m an audiobook convert.
I was completely and utterly burned out of politics this month and I opted to move away from podcasts a bit and intersperse my listening with audiobooks. I’m finding that I enjoy listening to mostly non-fiction or shorter fiction via audiobooks. I use a combination of Hoopla Digital and Overdrive for downloading audio and digital books. I have preferred Hoopla mostly because it is easier to search for books and usually something is available. The only problem is there is a daily lending limit set by the library so if I want to download something at noon one day I usually get a message to try back later. If I remember, I try about 6:30 that evening and all is well. Overdrive seems to have a broader selection of books but it is not nearly as easy to download books because there are usually only a certain amount of copies per digital or audiobook so I have to put a hold on it. No big deal, just that sometimes there’s a line of people in front of me, whereas with Hoopla, despite the daily limit, if there’s a popular book available I haven’t had a problem downloading it before the daily limit is reached. I don’t know, it’s a weird system.
I’ve been flagging so many books to follow up and read at some future date. Some I’m coming across that I know I want to own and will keep that in mind next time I see a used copy or one on sale somewhere.
With my audiobook uptake this month and spurning of podcasts, I’ve ‘read’ a lot more books this month. I’ll denote which were audio.
On Trails by Robert Moor: I originally started this book on paper and got about halfway through before I couldn’t renew it anymore and had to return it. I found the audio on Hoopla and was able to finish it easily within a week. This is probably my favorite book I’ve read so far this year. Moor writes a fascinating overview about the history of trails, from what may be the first trails left in fossilized rocks from primordial animals in Newfoundland to a history of the Appalchian Trail, including a scouting adventure to Morroco for part of the potential IAT. Interspersed are stories about Native American trails and hunting trails. In one section he covers herding sheep on a remote portion of the Navajo reservation and in another he scouts old Cherokee trails in North Carolina. I found the latter fascinating because he discussed how you can often see the original foot path in the woods with the adjacent wagon path after settlers arrived and then adjacent to that the eventual highway that was built because the original foot path had been that desirable of a trail. There’s so much packed into this book I really thought it could have gone even further. Highly recommend this one for outdoor and nature enthusiasts.
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett: This is a story of a married and pregnant woman who leaves her husband in the 1960s and ends up at a house for unwed pregnant girls in Kentucky. She gives birth and stays on, remarrying and raising her child there. It is told from three points of view. At first I found this frustrating because I had just gotten into the story with the main character narrating when it switched over but then I grew to like the point of view of each of the storytellers. It ended more abruptly than I wanted and didn’t quite resolve everything but overall this is good introduction to Patchett’s work. I really want to read State of Wonder next!
Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier: LeHoullier has made the rounds on various gardening podcasts and is always an interesting person to listen to. The book cover has intrigued me for years and I’ve wanted to purchase the book but never broke down to buy it. This was an informative read but I was mostly interested in the discussion about heirloom tomatoes and the history of some of the seeds, including the resurrection of 70+ year old seed. Most of the detailed information about seed starting and tips and tricks was less interesting because I was already familiar with it. This book is one for any gardener to check out. So many tomatoes, not enough garden space. Or driveway space in LeHoullier’s case!
Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist: If you read certain lifestyle and inspirational blogs long enough you’ll see someone mention Shauna Niequist. She’s got several books out and this was her first one. I typically like to start the beginning with an author but from what I understand her books stand on their own. This memoir was heavily faith based—or was supposed to be—but as an areligious person it didn’t really bother me that this was the intended goal. Honestly, the book would have been better and more inspirational if it had been more secular because the references to God felt tacked on, as if her publisher reminded her that she needed to include a certain amount of references to religion in approximation of how many essays she had in the story. That said, I found myself loving some of her essays, particularly the ones about life changes. This particular book was a take it or leave it one for me, I will give her writing another chance and check out her later books at another point. Another audiobook.
The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott: This was an audiobook. I was looking for an easy fiction listen to break up the non-fiction and this seemed up my alley in the vein of historical YA. Historical, yes, YA….ehhh, not really. I’m not sure how I would have liked this book if I’d read it on paper but as an audiobook it wasn’t that spectacular of a story. Actually, I probably wouldn’t have like the paper version either because the plot was trite and pithy. It takes place in the 1830sish in New England when cotton factories were just starting to gain steam. If you’ve read or watched Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South you’ll get an idea of where I going in a way—but in less well written storyline. The protaganist is a factory worker who left her family’s farm to escape farm life (which many of the other factory workers were doing) and there’s a story about murder and unwed pregnant factory girl, a weird side story of a tent evangelist, and of course a romance between the protaganist and the son of the factory owner—a romance that is incredibly forced.
So, I liked the zone out and imbibe in something frilly aspect but this isn’t that engaging of a book.
Bird Watcher’s Digest Butterflies Backyard Guide: Identify, Watch, Attract, Nurture, Save by Erin Gettler: I had Erin on the podcast to talk about her book a few weeks ago and I was bummed I didn’t think to check to see if the library had her book earlier than I did. I saw Hoopla had it available for download a few days before I chatted with Erin but I was already out of credits for the month so I had to wait until it reset March 1st. This is a great guidebook for common backyard butterflies throughout the United States. I’m going to have to buy a copy to have on hand at the house—Erin said Home Depot is supposed to be carrying it so I will have to look next time Chris or I go by there.
Finding Everett Ruess by David Roberts: I have a love/hate relationship with this book. I loved the writer and the idea of this story but I really did not like Ruess himself. This was because the story focused on his years from 16-20 when he was exploring the southwest and he was a bit of an entitled, bratty teenager, not quite coming into his own. This book has been on my to-read book for years and I listened as an audiobook. If you aren’t familiar with Ruess’ story, in the early 1930s he was exploring the desert southwest, roaming with pack mules and horses as he tried to make his way by selling his art. Almost like a Muir or some other similar transcendental type of nature enthusiast, but not quite. He lived with other people doing work or exploring the southwest as well as various tribal groups on occasion. He was actually very negative about his interactions with tribal people which was frustrating, too. There’s quite a bit known about his wanderings because he was an avid journal and letter writer and his family has quite a bit of his information, except the final journal and some other information that they lent out to unscrupulous characters in the 50s and 60s. The first and last quarters were really the best parts of the book in my opinion, and because the story of his disappearance has not be solved it makes you want to become a Ruess fan just to solve the puzzle.
Along the Appalachian Trail: West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania by Leonard M. Adkins: This actually needed to go on last month’s book list but for some reason I forgot about it. The book was mostly a lot of photos but I am always intrigued by early photos from the AT!
In the Middle Of
Appalachian Odyssey by Steve Sherman: I’m about 3/4 of the way through this book, a memoir from the 1970s. I have a lot to say about it and will save it for April’s book report. Pretty good so far, could have been developed a bit more.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: This year’s most hyped book, after I saw people raving about the audiobook because of its cast of readers I put myself on the lending list on Overdrive (Hoopla didn’t have it) and it was automatically downloaded this weekend. I just started yesterday and so far I’m ambivalent. If I was reading this on paper I would probably abandon it. I’ll keep you posted next month!
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett: This non-fiction compendium of her essays is fantastic! I think she’s Elizabeth Gilbert’s long lost soul sister. Listening as an audiobook, read by the author.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: I haven’t read much into this still, about a quarter of the way through. Probably going to have to audiobook it to finish.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay: This is on hold because it is a series of short stories and not one continuous novel so it doesn’t make it easy to just sit down and read straight through. I’ll probably borrow it off and on throughout the year until I can finish it.
What are you reading?
I took about a month off from reading from the middle of December through the middle of January and it was great to disengage with books for that bit, but like always, I tend to come back around to take another gulp from some books. Since it has also been a season in which I’ve watched far more television than I usually do, I thought I’d talk about some shows and movies I’ve watched over the last few months.
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher: With her untimely death back in December I kept seeing everyone talk about her books. I found this audio version, read by Carrie, to listen to over the course of a few days. I’ve taken to listening to audiobooks instead of podcasts recently and am finding it a refreshing change. This book is more about Carrie’s upbringing and relationship with her mother. A worthwhile listen if you want to know more about her life. I’m planning on getting around to her fiction books eventually.
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Another audiobook listen. All I’ve got to say is I hope this woman can manage to live out the rest of the Voldemort presidency. I knew very little about RBG before reading this book and it was a revelation to hear her story and the things she dealt with in regards to sexism in the workplace. We’ve come so far and yet not far enough. Put this book on your to-read list.
This Life is In Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and A Family Undone by Melissa Coleman: I’ve had this book on my to-read list for years now and this was yet another audiobook, read by the author. I did not speed this one up because the author has a wonderful voice that is soothing. Honestly, she sounds southern but she’s from Maine—sooo…not sure on that one. If you are familiar with Eliot Coleman and his expertise around four season gardening then you will know that this is his daughter. The story is about the Coleman family in their beginning years in the back to the land movement in Maine in the 70s. The family was mentored and rented land from Helen and Scott Nearing, the go-to folks for the back to the landers back in the era. I was not left with a good taste about the Nearings after reading this book. I knew some of that going into the story because of what I’d previously read in other articles about the BTTL movement but this book just highlighted it even further. I did give some serious side eye to the freedom a toddler was given to basically roam wherever, but I will just accept it was a different era.
If you are interested in homesteading, gardening, memoir, or just like a good but heartbreaking story, this is worth reading.
In the Middle Of
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett: I keep see Patchett time and time again as a revered author and so I finally gave one of her books a go. I’m listening to this one as an audiobook and am about 30% into it and LOVE it! Great story and writing. I’ll keep you posted.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay: This is a newly released book I am jumping on the bandwagon early for once! I’m not very far into it but the short stories I’ve read so far are captivating and well written.
Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier: It’s garden and tomato season, need I say more??? Just started.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: I’ve read this a couple of times before but it has been at least a decade since I’ve read it. I’m doing a book club for The Garden Path Podcast with Elizabeth sometime in late March or early April so I’m going to start this one soon.
On Trails by Robert Moor: I am only about halfway through with this book but it is so, so good. If you are an outdoor enthusiast or hiker you will really enjoy this book as it is about—-trails! And not necessarily hiking trails, either, but animal trails and the author even goes into exploring to find out what were the very first trails. I started this in December and because I was in a lull with reading I had to renew it the max amount of times and I still didn’t finish before needing to return it to the library. I plan to pick it back up again soon so I can finish but based on what I’ve read I highly recommend it.
Now on to TV!
As for network tv, This Is Us, Timeless, and Big Bang Theory are what I’ve been watching steadily this year. I dropped the political thriller with Kiefer Sutherland because I was politics-ed out and it was too realistic. Timeless just had their season finale and dropped some major plot bombs yesterday—the thing is, from what I’ve seen, the show hasn’t been renewed for a second season. I hope it gets renewed because it is a show that has just enough intrigue but a lot of lighthearted comedic moments, too. This is Us has turned out to be a hit that I’ve loved more than expected because the characters are written with such layers. Also, Mandy Moore is awesome. And Big Bang Theory just keeps getting better as it ages, I think. I am curious what they are going to do with Koothrappali—is he closeted gay?? Just some weird stuff and innuendos being thrown around this season.
Over on PBS the return of Sherlock in early January filled the gap where Downton Abbey had previously been. I thought I was going to have another gap to fill until we got to Call the Midwife in April but Victoria has filled that niche wonderfully. It ends here in a few weeks, though. Somehow I missed that Mercy Street had returned. I think it aired after Downton Abbey last year but this year it has been airing before Victoria and my DVR didn’t catch it to record. I will probably just catch up with it online instead.
Over on Showtime, Homeland has started back and I was a little ‘meh’ on the season as it started. While I really like the actor Rupert Friend, I was surprised to see him back as Peter Quinn after that horrific situation he was in last season. I mean, if this was real life he would be dead. That said, Sunday’s episode finally catapulted the season into something watchable and now I’m intrigued again. Also, I think Dar Adal is a bad guy. Remember season 4????
Netflix has been my go-to for when I’m looking to be lazy and I’ve come across a lot of good things there recently. If you haven’t binged The Crown yet, get on it! So much about a time period I’m not that familiar with. I never thought I could see Matt Smith as anything but The Doctor but he is a damn charming Prince Phillip. The OA is a series I started seeing a few people mentioning and honestly? I think it’s better than Stranger Things. It’s a show that kind of came out of nowhere and bam! it hits you upside the head. So. Many. Questions!
A few movies on Netflix I’ve enjoyed have been Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, The Cobbler (cute movie with Adam Sandler, definitely different), A Royal Night Out for if you need more royalty after watching The Crown, The Fundamentals of Caring, Tallulah, and two documentaries My Beautiful Broken Brain and The White Helmets. I started 13th but haven’t finished it yet. I know I’ve watched some other movies but I can’t remember them right now. Oh, wait, The Switch with Jennifer Aniston.
Got any books or movies to recommend to me?
Patrice recently wrote an update about her book proposal process and rejections for her memoir of the hike she and Justin did on the Te Araroa trail two years ago. We have been chatting via email off an on over the last year about book writing and proposals, commiserating in the the frustration of the book publishing process. It’s been nice to have someone to share the ups and downs of all of this, though so far for both of us it has been mostly a ‘down’ experience! Patrice’s post spurred me to write something about my own experiences thus far so I thought I’d share them with you now.
So, refresher for anyone new to my blog. In 2011 Chris and I thru-hiked the Florida Trail after we thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2010. Sometime later that year I started to write a book about the hike and I finally finished it in early 2014. Then I had Forest later in 2014 and I didn’t get around to doing anything else with the book other than sporadic editing until early last year, in 2016. I briefly mentioned last spring that I was putting together book proposals but I haven’t done much writing here about what has gone on with it in the last year.
The short answer is there’s absolutely nothing going on with it right now and the long answer is much more detailed than that!
For those who are unfamiliar with the publishing world, and it isn’t like I’m all that familiar with it—I only know this small portion I’ve been dealing with, getting a book published is a difficult process. Back in 2002-2003, after we moved to Florida, I began getting interested in taking writing seriously. I was working in a microbiology lab and one of my coworkers liked to write poems and so we both talked about writing often. I tried to sign up for an adult education writing course at the local community college in Melbourne, Fl but the class ended up canceled before it began because not enough people had signed up. In all of my talks with my friend/coworker she gifted me a subscription to The Writer magazine so I came to understand some of the process of query letters and such when submitting a manuscript. Later on, writing got swapped around for photography and other creative endeavors for a long time so the subscription lapsed, and other than blogging I didn’t do much writing for a long time.
When I started writing my Florida Trail book I knew that it was going to be a fairly niche book market but I still wanted to write it anyway. As it came time to settle in to write query letters I realized that submitting non-fiction books was a little different than fiction books in that I needed to also write a book proposal. Typically non-fiction is pitched to publishers or agents before it is written, in the form of a book proposal. Memoir is more aligned like fiction in that you should have your book completed, or close to it, before submitting a query and proposal. So, say you want to create some kind of cook book or craft book, you put together this giant proposal, anywhere from 40-100 pages in itself, with information that includes not only the synopsis, but an outline of the chapters, target audience, similar books on the market, your marketing platform (because in this day and age you are the marketer), sample chapters, how you envision the book to look, and even a bio or resume. This is the basic information but it can vary depending on publisher.
Needless to say my eyes were opened to what was needed and it took me a good month to get everything in order and start formulating a proposal. The good thing was my book was written so I wasn’t just fleshing some idea out; however it was still a headache to research everything that went into it and then try to decipher how I should space paragraphs and making sure I paginate everything and put a header in here or a footer in there.
As for determining publishers, I began generating a list of who accepted submissions straight from the author and searching for book publishers who specialized in the outdoors. Amazon was helpful with this as was just pulling off outdoors books from my bookshelf and seeing who published them, and then looking the company up to find out if they accepted submissions from authors or if they only took submissions from agents. I had about 10 publishers last spring that I wanted to submit to, those who were small-to-mid sized publishing houses that would fit my book’s platform and began from there. Once I had one proposal formatted I began manipulating it and tailoring it for other publishers.
Ideally I thought that the two publishers in Florida I was submitting to, University Press of Florida and Pineapple Press, would be my best bet. And really, they probably would have been, particularly UPF, but I received rejections from both fairly quickly. The former had already published a book on the Florida Trail by another author and didn’t want to have two Florida Trail memoirs on their book list and the latter was shrinking how many books they published each year and it my book didn’t quite fit their current publishing themes. Bummer.
And then I’d slowly get a few more rejections here and there. For the most part all of those submissions last spring were via email with a few sent via the postal service. And generally all of the publishers I submitted to said it could take 2-6 months to get a response. Other than about three, I’ve heard from all of the ones I originally submitted to. However, it is pretty easy to assume that I won’t be hearing from the others after this long. Another bummer.
So, I had given it about six months and started resubmitting once again back in late October. I found another 10 or so publishers to submit to and began working my way through that list. This time I tried to find more regional publishers because the outdoor publisher list that had been most promising had been exhausted already. I was also looking for more university presses, including my alma mater. I heard back from a few publishers within days with rejections and got a slight bump in excitement when one university press responded that everything looked good and he’d circulate it around the office and I’d hear back in a few weeks. That was around early November and then the holidays happened. I never heard back from him and I sent a follow up email a few weeks ago but again, no response. So. I’m just patiently waiting now.
Right now I’m unsure of where the book will end up. It’s a wait-and-see game with writing and getting a book published the traditional way. I could continue to find small publishers to submit to or branch out and try working with an agent. I’m worried about both of those aspects because some of the smaller publishers seems so small that I wonder how much different it would be to have them publish it versus me just self publishing—is there much of a difference? And with an agent, if this isn’t going to be submitted to a reasonably sized publishing house with a national marketing audience, how much money am I going to be losing to the agent compared to just submitting it on my own? I mean, yeah, it would be awesome if some imprint of Random House or HarperCollins picks up the book but I’m not deluding myself here. If you have experience with very small publishing houses and/or agents, please let me know what your opinions are on this.
In all, I’ve submitted to 19 different publishers and have had 8 formal rejections. However, in talking with Patrice I can probably scratch off another four or five based on her submissions to those same publishers I haven’t heard from—she received rejections based on the fact some aren’t publishing memoir right now or the publishing house merged and there was another reason. In reality, I’m now only waiting to hear from just a few publishers.
My next steps are maybe to research other publishers to submit to once again here in a few weeks or just bide my time for a little while longer and wait for a response from the last round of submissions. I’m crossing my fingers I will hear from the two university presses I submitted to back in early November. But in all honesty? I’ll probably be looking into self publishing through Amazon later this summer. This isn’t a bad thing—I just wasn’t hoping to go that route. There are quite a bit of hiking memoirs on Amazon and a ton of other books in different genres being self published there. It will just be another learning curve for me that I hadn’t wanted to wade into quite yet. It’s almost time to get my feet wet, though.
And that’s where I’m at with my book. In all of that I have also started writing another book (another non-fiction) and have ideas for two fiction books that I might start next year. Yes, the writing bug has hit me.
If you have any advice or connections (!!!) I’m open for suggestions.
I tried to find a post for my ‘word’ of 2016 but I guess I didn’t end up writing one. I decided my word would be ‘read‘ which seemed more actionable and doable than anything else. If I had chosen ‘run‘ I’m not so sure I would have been very successful. I have yet to figure out a word for 2017 but it may be a phrase instead.
So, here’s my round up of total number of books read for the year and what they were. I was aiming for about 25 books, approximately two a month; let’s see how I did!
In alpha by author:
- The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron
- The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
- Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors
- Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
- A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon
- The Space Between by Diana Gabaldon
- Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
- Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
- The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
- Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
- Hiking the Florida Trail: 1,100 Miles, 78 Days, Two Pairs of Boots, and One Heck of an Adventure by Johnny Molloy
- Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
- The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
- The Backyard Parables by Margaret Roach
- The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
- Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield
- Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout
- On a Farther Shore by William Souder
- The Florida Trail End to End: A Father and His Sons Two and a Half Year Adventure Hiking 1100 Miles Across Florida by Mike Umbarger
- The Lady Elizabeth by Allison Weir
- The Care and Management of Lies by Jaqueline Winspear
23, not bad! I probably started at least another 10 books that I either abandoned or put down in the middle of them. I will try to finish some of them next year.
Out of this list I’d say the top three books would be Big Magic, Fire Season, Lab Girl, and oh hell, a fourth book because I cannot leave it out, The Girl on the Train. 11/23 were non-fiction, 12/23 were fiction; I’m a little surprised at the nearly even split because I feel like I tend towards non-fiction these days but maybe I did make a decent effort for fiction.
Next year I would like to make the effort to read more of the books on my bookshelf as well as take the year to re-read the entire Anne of Green Gables series. It’s been a good while since I’ve done that and its time to bond with Anne again. Based on how this year went, I think what I averaged is plausible for next year, too. Some months I barely read anything and other months I read more than two books which evened that spread out. If I listen to more audiobooks instead of podcasts there’s a chance this could up the numbers a little more but we’ll see.
How about you? How much reading did you do? What was your favorite book(s) of the year?
I was in the middle of a lot of books in September so I didn’t want to do a book report at that time. However, I’ve now finished a bunch of books and am in the middle of more! Before I launch into that I’m going to launch into a rave about how much I now enjoy listening to audiobooks because I figured out how to speed them up! I have always been super bored by audiobooks, finding only a few here and there that caught my attention well enough to listen through. Recently, though, I started seeing people talk about speeding audiobooks up because many readers are speed readers (like myself) and have a difficult time pacing through an audiobook, which is typically read at a slower pace.
I had been listening to audiobooks through Hoopla Digital because there is no waiting period for books unlike on Overdrive. But, I had been listening through the computer and not my phone because my phone is a hand-me-down iPhone 4 and many apps, including Hoopla’s, aren’t compatible with that iOS version. Unfortunately their listening platform on a computer isn’t the same as for a device, there is not option to speed up the listening on the computer. Then I remembered Chris had bought another Kindle Fire tablet back in the summer during Amazon’s Prime Day sale and so I fired that thing up and saw I could download the Hoopla app from amazon on that. Voila! I could speed read! Life, changed!
Voyager by Diana Gabaldon: As soon as season 2 of Outlander ended I was on such a high I had to launch straight into a re-read of the third book. This was my third or fourth reread of this book and I had forgotten quite a bit of what went on in the story. I read it fairly quickly for an Outlander book and then launched right into the fourth book which I got about a third of of the way through and put on hold. I’m so excited for the upcoming season of the show but can’t fathom, again, how they are going to cut the book down to 12 episodes.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: This book has been talked about by so many people for well over a year but I never got around to putting it on my to-read list until this spring when I got in the very long line on Overdrive. My time came up at the beginning of October and I dropped everything else I was reading to devour this book in three days. Y’all, I haven’t read a book that fast in a long time. It was captivating, intriguing, and I couldn’t pinpoint ‘Who done it’ until quite a ways through, but damnnnnn. Good book. I definitely recommend this one! That said, in my head I never saw an Emily Blunt character in my head for the main character, it was always a mishmash of Amy Schumer and Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones. Eh, I can’t wait to see the movie when it comes to RedBox!
The Backyard Parables by Margaret Roach: This is one I listened to as a sped-up audiobook which turned out perfect because the author read the book. While I love Margaret on her podcast and through her website, I don’t have a lot of good things to say about her reading a book—there wasn’t a lot of change in tone or enthusiasm. I can imagine this is difficult for people who aren’t natural speakers and I imagine I would suck at it, too. But speeding it up made it a lot more tolerable and ideally this would have probably been a better book to read in paper. However, I did enjoy the book as it chronicled her garden over the year, talking about the ups and downs of the garden.
The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron: The term Highly Sensitive Person has become more mainstream in the last five to six years, much like the use of introvert—we introverts and HSPs are fighting back!—and so this book has been on my radar for quite some time. I checked out the digital version (after semi-long wait). Curious if you are an HSP? You can take a self quiz here. For the book, I mostly skimmed it. It had a lot of information I already knew and frankly, wasn’t all that helpful. I think if you are just coming into some self awareness on knowing what an HSP is this might help you out quite a bit. There is also a book for highly sensitive children which might be good for parents whose children may be HSPs. As I read some reviews on Goodreads about the book I found myself agreeing: the term highly sensitive is a bit negative—to me it conjures up the thoughts of people clutching Kleenex and crying—but it is more than that, and of course HSPs are likely to be easy criers. I think what I wanted to see was a how to deal with the non-HSPs, both in how to approach people to back off when telling us we’re too sensitive but also have to effectively build up that wall for the everyday and work on the sensitivity a bit to get through life, kind of like introverts having to pretend to be extroverts from time to time when need-be.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay: I have followed Roxane on Twitter for awhile now and kept seeing this book popping up here and there over the internet. This is another audiobook listen, one that was much better sped up as well. It earned 4/5 stars for me only because of the Sweet Valley Twins rants at the beginning of the book. I was not a Sweet Valley reader as a kid so I was mostly bored by this discussion. However, the rest of the book was excellent. The premise of the book is that she is a ‘bad feminist’ in that in many aspects she is a girly-girl—she likes pink, she wants kids, she isn’t interested in doing the fixer-upper or bug killing type chores—things that maybe if you want to say you are a feminist, or maybe culturally, these are things women should or shouldn’t be if they want to call themselves a feminist. You can’t like pink and be a feminist. You should want to know how to change a tire if you want to be a feminist. You shouldn’t call a man to squish a bug. Etcetera, etcetera. All of these supposed biases about who a feminist should or shouldn’t be are exactly the problems feminists are facing from the culture. Preferring pink and wanting a man to squish a bug doesn’t preclude you from being a feminist. (FYI: The notion of pink being a ‘girl’ color is a relatively new idea). I have so many thoughts regarding feminism and have thought even harder about it during this election cycle as well as after having Forest. I read something else recently about how we’ve done so much to help girls and women realize their equality but we’ve kind of forgotten to work on how to teach boys about equality—and I mean this from the unconscious bias way. We may easily say girls can do what boys can do but we easily fall into the trap of limiting boys about so-called girl things, ie: that’s a girl toy or girl book, girl color, etc. No, it’s just a toy, a book, a color.
Anyway, the book was well worth the read; she touches not only on feminism but racism and then also on the differences in feminism for white women and people of color. Some of this I hadn’t thought much about until the last few years but my eyes are definitely opened.
“I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.” -Roxane Gay
In the Middle of
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bradley
Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman
Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts: I was in the middle of this one when The Girl on the Train came up and while I was sailing along with it the um, much better writing and storyline of TGotT kind of threw me when I went back to this book.
Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
+Second Nature by Michael Pollan
+The Journey in Between by Keith Foskett
+You are a Badass by Jen Sincero I began listening to this one but it did not get my attention. Abandoned.
Focus for the rest of the year
I think my goal for the rest of the year, other than digital reading and listening, is to finish up books I have left hanging around, or those I ordered but haven’t gotten around to. Those would be:
Illumination in the Flatwoods by Joe Hutto
Lost on a Mountain Maine by Donn Fendler
Along the Florida Trail by Bart Smith and Sandra Friend
Paths of Desire by Dominique Browning
Baby Birds by Julie Zickefoose
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
The Florida Trail by Sandra Friend and John Keatley: This is a coffee table book for the 50th anniversary of the Florida Trail. It’s beautiful!
I was in the mood to make something wearable and relatively easy recently, something to stash-bust my yarn. I came across the Movie Night Cocoon Cardi via Ravelry (this link is Craftsy for those not on Ravelry) and it seemed perfect for the vat of acrylic yarn I have on hand. Plus, it was basically a giant granny square and there’s not much easier than that! The project was incredibly easy and I’m already planning on making at least two more for other people and think I could make a second for myself plus a third for myself using thinner yarn or crochet thread for something with more drape or maybe for using in warmer weather.
This will be perfect for wearing around the house and to take camping, I think. It’s incredibly cozy and I’m so glad I made it! I’ve got the crochet bug so look for more projects from me in the coming months.
Ever since I made these fingerless gloves I have wanted to make more. For some reason it has taken me six years (!!!) to get around to making more! I was at Hobby Lobby recently and they had a huge pile of yarn on clearance. I was about to put the blinders on and walk on by but curiosity got the better of me and the hankering for fingerless gloves was there, so I had a look. I walked away with a two rolls of sport weight in neutral and brown colored yarn by Sinfonia. And some other cheaper yarn in Christmas colors for my weaving project. I have a ton of acrylic yarn that was my grandmother’s which is good for things like blankets or more utilitarian items but for garments and the like I don’t have much diversity in yarn. Enter sale yarn!
I hadn’t been on Ravelry in a long time so I logged in there and found a lot of the boards I was on were dead so I deleted them. The forum and site is still very active but it looks like I need to get new boards to follow. I searched their patterns and found two quickly and printed them. Ravelry has free and for-purchase patterns. I got two free ones and the one you see worked great so far. Sometimes I’ll find a pattern on a blog but then read the comments to see if there were any problems with it and if I find too many people complaining about something I skip over it. The last thing I want to do is try to interpret what the pattern writer was going for.
The pattern called for worsted weight yarn but I had the sport weight which was what I wanted, so I opted to make a looser gauge than I would done normally. The first glove is a little looser than the other but they look fine once they are on. I’m excited to get to making the other pair soon. It was immensely satisfying to have a FO (finished object) so quickly!