Reading Too Much. Writing Not Enough.

On WordPress’s Freshly Pressed page, I read this blog post (featured by WordPress. How nice of them, no?) There are some great books listed there that I am interested in reading. But not until I finish the books that are currently on my nightstand and other convenient places throughout my apartment.

In no particular order or preference, here are the books I’m reading:

  • Eats, Shoot & Leaves, The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss
  • A Double Life, Discovering Motherhood by Lisa Catherine Harper (Winner of River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize)
  • Old Friend from Far Away, The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg
  • Writing Down the bones, Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (although I have not opened it in a few months…)
  • Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (I only have a few more chapters of this one…I got distracted by Natalie Goldberg!)
  • The Memoir Project, A thoroughly Non-standardized Text for Writing & Life by Marion Roach Smith
  • River Teeth, Stories and Writings by David James Duncan
  • The Second Comforter, Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil by Denver C. Snuffer, Jr.
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder (I’m reading the Little House on the Prairie series aloud to my daughter.)

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There are so many good books and just not enough time to get through them fast enough! But remember a previous post of mine about doing one thing at a time? Reading books should definitely fall under that – and it does. But I just cannot help myself! Sometimes I feel like something light, and other times I am crave instruction and mentoring. I create a menu that includes everything from gourmet to fast food material and as each mood calls, that need can be met. Its brilliant really, although my husband would beg to differ. The library fines add up and the books clutter the house.

Does anyone know of a good book that will teach me how to speed read? That is the answer!

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In case you didn’t click on the link above taking you to River Teeth Literary Journal, (there it is again) I’ll share a little bit about that here. This Literary Journal publishes the best of the best nonfiction work in the country. Authors and novice writers like myself will be gathering for a conference in May. A writing conference. Did you hear that? I am so lucky to be attending this prestigious writing conference! I hope to rub shoulders with a few published authors and learn how to better apply myself to the craft of writing. I will be able to go over a manuscript with a professional and get some feedback on my projects. I am both excited and nervous about that…

I attended a writing workshop in Park City when I was 16 called Writers @ Work. It is in its 27th year. Dear old Mr. Daugherty, my Jr. English teacher, submitted my application and with the help of a scholarship (and my dad) I went for a weekend and received writing coaching from poets like David Lee and other fiction and nonfiction authors whom I cannot remember. It was a while ago and I am certainly in need of a mini writing boot camp. I will be going to OH for this conference with my mother. It should be a fun time, and a trying time as I am forced to dive headlong into a project that has been eating at me for years.

I’ll keep you posted on that. Wish me luck on all the pages I’ve got to read and more so for all the the thousand’s of words I will be writing.

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A few of my favorite obsessions

I don’t mean to have obsessions, but we all do it: little things that we just cannot help. They lend themselves to spectacular writing material.  In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite things and behaviors that have somehow turned themselves into minor obsessions of mine.

1) Click-clacking my teeth together. I developed this strange habit when I was 15 or 16. My teeth, out of nowhere will turn into little castanets and click back and forth horizontally across my mouth while I count.  Over and over and over  like a scratched CD. I don’t even know how high I count, and I’ll start over counting if I am clicking too fast to keep up. This strange behavior would fall easily into the Obsessive Compulsive behavior category. I don’t know exactly what triggers it. The first time I caught myself doing it, I realized it was completely weird and I shook my head as if it was a ketchup bottle to make myself stop.  So clearly I remember that I was staring trance-like out of a smudgy bus window watching the blurry landscape of Portugal whiz by. Clickety-clack, clickety-clack.

I hope my teeth don’t wear themselves down from doing this.

2) Rolling my wrists until they pop. There are eight bones that make up the wrist. I remember from my time in massage therapy school. They are called: scaphoid, lunate, triquetral, pisiform, trapezium, trapezoid, capitate and hamate. After a long day of massage and during a massage, I will roll my wrists to get some movement. It sounds like popcorn popping and it is such a relief when they release. I also will roll my wrists while I am writing or typing. It feels so good!

3) When I climb into bed at the end of a tiring day, my bedspread has GOT to be completely straight. There is something about a crooked blanket that makes me feel like a raging lunatic! This is especially true when there are seams on the blanket that give you a map by which to make it straight. Putting the sheets on the bed is no different. It must be perfect. Waking up in the morning and seeing the blanket and sheets completely disheveled can set me off at the beginning of my day. How did I let a blanket gain so much control over me? Don’t even get me started on the particulars of the weight and texture of my blanket. I have yet to find the perfect bedspread. When you share a bed with someone with completely different tastes in bedding, it can make for a strained bedroom experience. Oh the pains of my life!

4) How many little things can I get started before I actually begin the big thing? For example: Before I begin mopping my disgusting kitchen floor (which I usually avoid at all costs), I will start a load of laundry (it can work while I am), bag up the trash, start the dishwasher, put my son down for his nap….but before I can put my son down for a nap, I have to wait for the laundry to get done so I can put it into the dryer while he sleeps (dryer is in his room). So I will sweep the floors throughout my little apartment, clean the bathroom, put away some clutter, put the clothes in the dryer, put my son down for a nap and then proceed to the kitchen. The problem with the way this series of events unfolds is that by the time I finally get around to mopping the floor, I am tuckered out. It is lunch time and my four year old is finished keeping herself occupied. And that is when the water color paints come out, the crumbs continue to fall on the floor and that big thing I set out to do in the first place remains undone for yet another day. Do you ever do that?

5) Reading too many books at the same time. Right now I have my bookmarks in six books. Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, The Mother in Me by Kathryn Lenard Soper, River Teeth by David James Duncan and my religious reading material. I’m just not a “one at a time” kind of a girl. These are all good reads, by the way. If you’re obsessed with non-fiction like I am. (Not counting Rand’s book…but it may as well be true, what with the way our Government is taking over in so many realms!)

6) Really good food. Right now I’m on a Mexican food kick. Enchiladas, burritos, chips and salsa! Horchata! Yum! I could eat an entire bag of corn chips. Give me some homemade salsa and I’m one happy camper! Tonight my friend shared her amazing one of a kind Grape Salsa. Oh my! So good! I just love food. Who knows what I will be onto next week!

7) Cars.

8) These Chocolate Chip Cookies.

9) Pandora Stations: Gary Jules,  George Strait, Alison Krauss, 80’s Alternative, Iron and Wine, Tracy Chapman, Raffi Children’s Radio, Gotye, Kimbra, Michael Franti and Michael Jackson to name a few. I love Pandora for its ability to meet my varied musical cravings. What is your favorite Pandora station?

10) Finding new things to learn about and be utterly obsessed about. Because what is the worst thing in this life, after all, if it is not knowing? (You can interpret that last phrase either way…)

What are some of your little obsessions?

Writing Down the Bones

I’ve always wanted to be a better writer. This blog has been a small outlet for me to express raw material to a few readers. When I post something, I never edit it. I write, do a spell check, do a once over for any major errors and quickly click “publish”. I have to do this process quickly, otherwise I will chicken out and decide what I wrote was crap. It is easy to just run away or avoid writing because of fear. I admit I do this more often than not. But I am still scared, but I am getting more brave. I’m scrave. (That is a “word salad” that little Jack from the book Room taught me.) If I can get to the last line, I’ve written something. And at least it won’t fester inside of me creating a fluster-cluck of jumbled thoughts. Those make me insane.

Writing makes me sane.

For as long as I can remember, I have always written in a journal. I have 20 or so of them lined up like crows on a power line behind me. They mostly contain crap, but at least I wrote. Every day I would scribble what I saw in front of me. I’d write about my thoughts, rambling this way and that. I’d write about how boring my day was and how I couldn’t believe I was writing such boring prose about a boring day.  And then I’d read it and think, gosh, that was boring! As I learned it, it is called Free Write.

I don’t know what happened really, but those journals slowly stopped being used. My writing hand got out of shape.(Lefty) My trusty pen lost. The internet took over. Facebook. Children. Just other things that I thought took up all the time in the world. There was no time to write. Seemingly. But I was going insane. Stuck thoughts with no outlet just banging around inside of me like a full-term baby with no exit strategy. So uncomfortable!

I must write. I’ve been getting back at it recently. And though what I write may be crap, (see previous post…no, actually- don’t waste your time on it!) at least I am writing. Writing practice makes a better writer. Eventually I will have written something so extraordinary that even I will be amazed that it could come from an individual such as I.

I attended a writing conference as a 16 year old called “Writers At Work”. It was so much fun to be surrounded by other fledgling writers like myself, as well as published authors who were sharing the tricks of the trade. I want to do something like that again. I came across a conference that is scheduled for May in Ohio that I am considering attending. I’d love to be inspired again and surrounded by others who, like me, may feel stuck in their head and need some coaching to get it out. I’d love to get some feedback on how to write a memoir. I’d like to be solid at writing Nonfiction Narrative. Because that is what naturally comes out.

In Writing Down The Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, she teaches many simple truths as they relate to writing. First and foremost, she suggests writing everyday. A free-write of whatever you want. I have written today for a few hours and already I can feel a few thoughts breaking lose like the melting ice of a frozen lake. I am learning to be uncensored and more real in my words. I am re learning how to “show, not tell”, as a dear high school English teacher taught. There are so many ingredients that go into really good writing. I acknowledge that I am missing a few essential ones and am committed to the practice of writing over and over and over to finally get it right…or is it write?

Writing with the intent to teach or share information has been my M.O., but I realize that I have been going about it all wrong. The truth is, I write to more clearly see something for myself. When I write for real, it is just me telling myself the things falling out of my mind. Here Sycamore Girl, look at this. And now turn it around and see it from this side. See what you can learn from it. Look at this. I really do write for myself. And then I get scrave and click that little blue “publish” button and wait to see what happens. I go over and over in my mind the things that a fellow blogger wrote about in his very humerus post  Did my post suck today?

Maybe it did suck. But at least I am writing.

Follow up on ROOM

I thought I would take a moment and share more of my thoughts about the book I mentioned and finished a few weeks. If you haven’t read it yet, you probably would want to skip out on reading this post, as it may spoil it for you. But maybe not.

I just need to say that it was exactly what I needed to read. I don’t usually read fiction books, so when I picked this one up, it took me by surprise. Still being in a bit of a funk from the previous weeks (of emotional hell!) reading Room took me on a journey of personal introspection. I found myself feeling very connected to the little boy, Jack. The narrative he gave using his juvenile  language, his raw thoughts and bravery felt as if he was me as a child. I identified with his major reality change and the real terrifying feelings that those changes conjured up. But in the end, he was okay. A little scared and probably needing a few years of therapy, but okay. Like me.

He was me. In the 18 years since my reality change as a youth (divorce), I never have been able to voice the pain I felt. Until Jack said it for me. He was taken out of his perfect world where he knew nothing of the outside. To him, the 11×11 room was all he knew. His entire existence had been lived in that small space! So how could he know what he was missing? How could he understand what his mother was feeling, being hidden away and held captive from her world for 7 years? To Jack’s mother that 11×11 space was her death sentence, but to Jack it was his only reality. So imagine being taken out of the only thing that has been constant- now the world becomes Jack’s death sentence, but blissful freedom to his mother.

Room gave me a different perspective of my dear mother. I don’t fully understand everything about why she left, nor do I think it is necessary to really know anymore. The fact is that she felt trapped in her “11×11” space and broke out. Which ripped me from my comfortable, happy and naive existence. It was scary and difficult to adjust without her constant company. It felt like one day she was there, and the next she was gone. She was my 11×11, my safety. Adjusting was difficult, but I made it.

I don’t mean to make this sound like a “woe is me” story- its not. I needed to record my own little “coming to Jesus” feelings as I read Room. I really do feel like it altered my thoughts in such a dramatic way. I feel like I understand myself on a whole new plane. And I am closer to understanding my mother. And that is such good news.

In addition to all of that. I came away from the book with a new compassion for my own children. I must be more respectful of their realities as they grow. Yes, children are resilient, but change is difficult and can be damaging. I am so in love with their little selves. So in love. I am committed to doing all that is in my power to provide them with the continuity they need to grow into a better adult than I am. Preserving innocence, teaching adaptability and a love for people, learning and an understanding of who they really are– these are key components that each and every child needs for living the most peaceful and glorious life. No matter what size of “room” you grow up in.

The China Study

I’ve been on the wait list to read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D for a few months now. It is finally my turn to read it. I started it tonight while taking a little jaunt on the treadmill and I am very excited to continue it!

Natural Health and nutrition have become sort of an obsession of mine the past few years. I can’t seem to get enough of it!

This book discusses the scientific studies conducted over a long period of time having to do with disease and diet. I’m pretty sure the bottom line is promoting a vegetarian or vegan diet.
I’ll keep you posted on my thoughts and any changes I make along the way.
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Have you read it?

Wish me luck!