Every once in a while, I like to cleanse my palate from my normal reading tastes. As a writer of young adult fiction, I tend to read a lot of YA Fic. But the past month, maybe because of the weather and wanting a change, I’ve plunged into other styles. So here’s what I’m reading and my thoughts on them.
by jennifer mccartney
(Even typing that without the capitalization required by civilized society hurts.) Look. I like orderly spaces. I’m more organized than not and generally don’t appreciate people leaving messes, especially in shared spaces. So a comical book about being messy challenged my sense of duty. Onward then!
This book genuinely had me laughing out loud. I can’t get to the point of living the lifestyle (which isn’t really the point, of course), but I sure had fun by the author trying to convince me to embrace consumerism and messiness with a light heart. Hey, life happens. Author Jennifer McCartney makes a solid point lamenting how grownups lose the ability to enjoy an environment without feeling the need to change it (i.e., tidying). The neat freak in me, though, just pictures the neighbors desperately wishing a force of nature would whisk the backyard flotsam far away. Funny read. There’s swearing (Duh, read the title), so lighten up.
by P.D. James
I cannot read real crime stories as entertainment. Fictional stories are another matter, though, especially short stories that are low on gore, high on motive, and follow in the vein of Edgar Allen Poe. I blazed through these six wonderfully written stories (I’m a sucker for an unreliable narrator.) and found myself thinking about motives long after I’d put down the book. Written by the incomparably thrilling and recently deceased P.D. James, whose talent the world misses. Recommended.
editing by James Thomas, Robert Shapard, and Christopher Merrill
Flash fiction is just like it sounds: very, verrrry short works. They range from just a few paragraphs to just a few pages. Think of it as a story you could read during a cigarette break, if you smoke, or a quick chocolate break, if you’re… well, human. I’m half-way through this book and find it interesting to read if just for the descriptive writing. Some of the stories aren’t stories in the traditional sense of having a beginning, middle, and end; they’re just glimpses of life without a story-driving conflict, much less a solution. Some of the other works are traditional short stories. Recommended if you’re looking for quick reads or to explore a condensed writing style.
by Lita Judge
This book retells the personal history of Mary Shelley, author of the literary masterpiece Frankenstein. I sat next to the author/illustrator at the author signing table of the Wisconsin State Reading Association conference last month. Lita told me it took her six years to complete this book, and no wonder. It’s 312 pages, each pair of pages a spread containing a free verse poem and her accompanying black-and-white watercolor illustration. The art is chilling – in a good way – again reminding me of the way Poe’s work is often illustrated. I start this book tonight and will report back later.
UPDATE: I read Mary’s Monster in one evening. The poetry is story-driven and accessible; the art haunting and a wonderful match to the narrative. If you’re a fan of Mary Shelley, you’ll love this book.
So that’s how I’m mixing it up. Do you also find the need to change your reading habits now and then?
I talked about speedskating today on The Morning Blend talk show on WTMJ-TV. Milwaukee played a big role to the skaters on their way to the 2018 Olympic because this is where the US Speedskating Olympic Trials were held. I was one of three announcers calling the play-by-play.
Here’s the segment, which is a preview ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics:
I’m wishing my speedskating friends fast ice and great results. Who are you following in the Olympics this year? What’s your favorite sport?
In just a few exciting days, I, along with two others, will have the privilege of play-by-by announcing for the US Speed Skating Olympic Trials. We’ll have the honor of kicking off the event, introducing skaters, calling each race, and sharing details of the sport, its challenges, and its national representatives on their way to the world stage, the Olympics 2018.
I’ve announced at Milwaukee’s Pettit National Ice Center off and on for years, even as I compete in the very same sport. I’ve watched the athletes who’ll skate the trials grow up, I’m friends with most of them, and I wish them the very best.
Come the opening day of Trials, January 2nd, I’ll get the great privilege of watching these athletes’ hard work pay off. Achieving a place at the trials is a great accomplishment. Earning a spot on the Olympic Team is the pinnacle, of course, reserved for those at the very top of the field on that day. It’s a snapshot in time. All the skaters out there are our nation’s best, as are those who came within fractions of a second of the qualifying times or are battling injury or fatigue that prevents their attendance at these Trials. There’s always another run in four more years.
I’ll be announcing alongside my own speedskating coach and Pettit Head Announcer Jeff Brand, seen here, and Gordon Cepuran, who’s also running the music. The Trials will be live broadcasted on NBC Sports Network with their own announcers. We’re looking forward to being a part of this grand event.
The Pettit has brought down the hockey nets, readied the bleachers, and transformed the facility, which happens to be celebrating its 25th anniversary. The venue is ready for the occasion. We hope you’ll come down and watch as the skaters compete and US Speedskating names its Olympic team. January 2 – 7, 2018. Some days are already sold out, so buy your tickets now! Details can be found here: http://thepettit.com/trials/
Go, Team USA!
Hurry, aspiring writers and illustrators! You have just 18 days to apply to SCBWI-Wisconsin’s 2018 mentorships. The deadline is November 30, 2017, and this is an opportunity not to be missed. I am deeply honored to be among the six authors/illustrators who’ll be mentoring up-and-coming creators in 2018, along with Jamie Swenson, Jane Kelly, Pat Schmatz, Deb Gross, and Jeanne Styczinski. I’ll work with an author of middle grade or young adult work who’s interested in self-publishing.
First, here are the mentorship basics:
The 2018 SCBWI-Wisconsin Mentorship runs approximately six months, January to June. The amount of interaction between mentor and mentee will be decided between the pair.
Next, the rules:
You must be a current member of SCBWI and have attended at least one member event in the past year, unless applying for the Diversity Mentorship with Pat Schmatz.
You can only apply for one category of mentorship unless you qualify for the Diversity Mentorship, in which case you could apply to more but only win one.
You must yet to be traditionally published in your category.
Finally, the application details:
I’m really looking forward to this adventure. Please apply if you’re interested and spread the word to the creative people in your life who you feel might benefit. Thanks! 🙂
How often, do you suppose, have you fallen into a rut? Even when trying to be creative, do you find yourself slipping into familiar routines and say, meh, the writing or artwork is good enough?
Whoa boy, let me tell you. If you were feeling that way before the SCBWI-WI Fall Retreat, you left feeling like a new person. Superhero-ish even. There’s no way any uninspired, humdrum, or worse, corrosive thoughts could creep into your creative sphere that weekend. And if you haven’t yet made it a part of your creative journey to connect with others at a conference, I’d highly suggest you do.
Wisconsin’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Fall Retreat was meant to be an antidote to stifling routine. This years theme was “experiment and play,” and what a great thing to do to help us create. I was incredibly honored to give three presentations: how to slant the truth through an unreliable narrator; how to bring back the thrill of creating (in case the joy’s become a grind); and using art as inspiration.
Anyone who knows my writing knows that I love a good unreliable narrator. I could talk about that all day. I didn’t, though, to allow attendees time to work on their writing prompts. See? Proof.
And we had an open, dynamic talk on how to banish the blahs. Author Melissa Gorzelanczek not only inspired everyone during her talks, but she came up with the idea of Journey Stones weeks ahead of our workshop. I designed a hundred.
YES to your journey! YES to challenges! YES to bravery! I think the attendees liked them. 🙂
My final presentation really revved my engines. Author Valerie Biel and I talked about the gazillion ways we creative types use other art for our inspiration. I’m talking literature, visual arts, music, theater, or dance. I’m big into the visual arts, and there’s no shortage of it referencing mythology, so I was absolutely in my element. Here are a few pictures I shared: me hanging out with Cupid at the Milwaukee Art Museum and then imitating Bacchus, the god of theatre and wine, at the Louvre. We’re buds, ya know.
And again I made a little memento: crocheted bookworms. I hope they crawled their way into someone’s heart. 🙂
Others got artistic, too. Check out these handmade bags for the faculty, made by the “Freakin’ Happiness Fairy,” Author M.J. Diem. And can she rawk a tutu or what?
Once in a while you get to experience something really special, and that usually involves helping others. For the third straight year, I’ve taken part in the Novel Cuisine Luncheon put on by Wisconsin Author Liza Weimer and Blogger Extraordinaire Heidi Zweifel. The luncheon brings literary types together to collect and donate books to organizations that need them but don’t have financial means to secure them. We also dine on book-inspired foods. The recipients of donated books typically include classroom libraries and women’s shelters, offering the traumatized children there a desperately needed diversion. This year, books collected also went to areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
The awe-inspiring gathering of community-minded authors, publishing professionals, teachers, librarians, book club organizers, bookstore associates, and bloggers donated and shared hundreds of books. I know our small contribution to this cause will bring someone a moment of relief in truly trying times.
Here are some photos of the 6th annual event. I hope you enjoy them. A special thanks goes to the event organizers and volunteers for taking on such a worthy cause.