Posted in Blog Post, Monthly Review

Month in Review: August 2016

SeptemberHappy September! 

This time of year tends to be my favorite. Even though it means the ushering in of another academic year, a busy semester bringing with it all sorts of extra commitments, last-minute meetings, unanticipated problems and such things as come with being an educator, nevertheless it also means fall is on its way. Autumn is a beautiful time of year in this part of the world — the colors, the crispness, the weather. And of course Halloween! So, I usually find myself becoming energized… this year the race toward rejuvenation is more of a slow stroll, but I do still feel a bit of that old magic returning. 

For much of August, I was pretty sick, so I did not get as much done on the blog (or anywhere else) as I would have liked. I did post some thoughts on “genius,” as well as an event sign-up for something I’m excited to host again this year. I also managed to read quite a bit in August because I was mostly immobile for a few weeks, so there wasn’t much else to do (not that I should complain about guilt-free reading opportunities!).  I have had to update my Goodreads reading goal for the year twice because I’ve gone over the number I expected to reach. 

4a81c8a7-05ac-47b4-964b-5869f5a8e838_zpsirguiazb

One item of significance is the return of THE LITERARY OTHERS reading event. This is an LGBTQ+ reading event that I’ll be hosting in October, as part of LGBT History month. You can follow that link to read more about the event, sign-up, and consider volunteering to host a giveaway or write a guest post! If you’re on Twitter, we’re using the hashtag #TheLiteraryOthers. 

Now, to recap!
Books Read in August: 1151nX2wGTFXL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_

  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (5 out of 5)
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (5 out of 5)
  • A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf (5 out of 5)
  • Darkness Visible by William Styron (5 out of 5)
  • milk and honey by Rupi Kaur (4 out of 5)
  • It by Stephen King (4 out of 5)
  • 10% Happier by Dan Harris (4 out of 5)
  • Still Side by Side by Mioki (4 out of 5)
  • Side by Side by Mioki (3 out of 5)
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (3 out of 5)
  • The Wave by Morton Rhue (Todd Strasser) (3 out of 5)

Not listed are a number of comics that I read this month as well. 

Blog Posts:

That’s my month of August in a nutshell. I’m looking forward to getting more accomplished in September, including a couple of poetry project posts (up next is Ovid’s Metamorphoses). I’ll also be reaching out to the volunteers for The Literary Others to make plans and schedule posts. 

What have you been up to?  I’d love to know! 

Posted in Blog Post, Personal

The Death of Genius?

contentItem-6493112-52396551-zgw8xb4h1ypag-orI recently finished reading Virginia Woolf’s diaries (collected as A Writer’s Diary). It did more than just solidify Woolf’s permanent position on my “forever favorites” shelf, but perhaps there will be time to elaborate on that further another day.

The death of genius haunts me. I think of the wonderfully, terrifyingly talented souls who have left us recently (from Prince to Alan Rickman to Muhammad Ali) and fall down the rabbit hole, following that train of thought backwards in time to think about all of the greatness and wonder that has left this world, from Shakespeare to Woolf to Tennessee Williams. We’ve been graced with their lasting gifts, creations of art, cinema, music, thought. Still, I can’t help but feel that the best of the world and all it has to offer is not ahead of us, but behind.

Yes, this is a cynical thought from someone who typically tends toward the optimistic. But this feeling comes stronger and stronger as the days go by. We still have brilliance among us, of course. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bob Dylan, Stephen Hawking, and I suppose countless others, including my personal favorite genius who goes unnamed (because I’m selfish and possessive). I still don’t know what my generation will leave for the future, though, and why it is so difficult for genius to survive, thrive, shine, be acknowledged. Maybe that’s the way it has always been and maybe other people in other generations have sat and wondered the same thing, lamented the same concern.

I can’t shake it, though. To me, lately, the world seems to be growing colder, angrier, drearier as the days go by. We’re a disturbingly promising species, and yet we’re destroying ourselves and our planet. Why? As I said to Jane Goodall: Ego, I think. Our own “I am” and “I want” and “I need” comes before anything else. This could be a byproduct of being American in the Trump era; I do hope it is very different in other countries, but is it? What is human nature? Throw the dice and you’ll probably get an equal number saying “to strive for individual greatness” and “to make the world better for all.”

And which camp do I fall into? Is it possible to have it both ways?

Talk about anxiety. Self-consciousness. Fear of, what, being inconsequential? I sit here and think about genius, about my generation and my place in it, and I wonder: just what the hell am I supposed to be doing? Is it enough to, perhaps, make a small difference in one or two small lives every now and then? What do I – what can I – leave behind when I’m gone?  

Posted in LGBT, Literary Others Event

The Literary Others: An LGBT Reading Event (Sign-Up Post)

4a81c8a7-05ac-47b4-964b-5869f5a8e838_zpsirguiazb

 Welcome to the sign-up post for:

The Literary Others: An LGBT Reading Event!

I am excited to be bringing back THE LITERARY OTHERS reading event this October, for LGBT History Month. 

What is LGBT? LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. For the purposes of this event, “LGBT” works will refer to those which are written by a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender author, or to those works whose major themes/characters are LGBT-centric (Books with a gay protagonist, books dealing with homophobia, poetry by a lesbian, stories where a character is dealing with gender identity issues or changes, etc.). 

I know my blog readers are an eclectic bunch. We have lovers of literature and the classics and lovers of Young Adult fiction. We have lovers of fantasy, science-fiction, poetry, and drama. We have non-fiction readers, audiobook listeners, and those wacky dystopian fans!

Well, did you know that, across all these genres and media types, there exists a wide-range of very powerful, very entertaining LGBT material?  For many, this event could be an opportunity to read your very first gay classic; for others, it might be a time to re-read or re-visit favorite authors and share why you love them and their works so much. 

So, for this event, the goal is to read as many pieces of LGBT literature as you want/are able to, during the month of October. Biographies, audiobooks, and re-reads count.

I will post throughout the month on different subjects related to the study of LGBT literature and history, as well as my own reviews of the LGBT books I finish. I will also be offering giveaways, and I am hopeful that some participants will be interested in writing guest posts or hosting giveaways of their own, to make this more interactive.

If you are going to participate, then simply plan to read books by LGBT writers, or books whose primary themes/characters are gay/lesbian, etc. Below are a few representations of LGBT works within the many possible genres. This list is by no means comprehensive, it is simply a starting point.

Literature & Classics

  • Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
  • Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
  • The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
  • Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
  • At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill
  • The Persian Boy by Mary Renault (historical fiction)

Contemporary Fiction

  • Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
  • Annabel by Kathleen Winter
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  • The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt
  • Memory Mambo by Achy Obejas
  • Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja
  • The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst

Young Adult

  • Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
  • I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth the Trip by John Donovan
  • Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
  • Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
  • Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Science-Fiction/Fantasy

  • Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman
  • Jumping off the Planet by David Gerrold
  • Shadow Man by Melissa Scott
  • Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey
  • Huntress by Malinda Lo
  • The Last Herald Mage series by Mercedes Lackey

Poetry & Drama

  • Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein
  • Angels in America by Tony Kushner
  • Howl by Allen Ginsberg
  • The Complete Poems by Sappho
  • Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  • The Satyricon by Petronius

Non-Fiction/Memoir

  • Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel 
  • Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde
  • A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White (semi-autobiographical)
  • Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
  • Mississippi Sissy by Kevin Sessums
  • Boy Erased by Garrard Conley

Explicit/Erotica (Literary)

  • Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal by Oscar Wilde
  • Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet
  • The Wild Boys by William S. Burroughs
  • Le Livre Blanc by Jean Cocteau

Volunteers Needed!

If you would like to host a giveaway or provide a guest post, please: CLICK HERE

And if you want to sign-up to participate in The Literary Others Reading Event, simply leave a comment on this post saying YOU’RE IN! Maybe include some of the books you hope to read, too. I plan to read Twilight Men by Andre Tellier, Strange Brother by Blair Niles and The Young and Evil by Charles H. Ford & Parker Tyler. 

Please also post the button somewhere on your blog (in an announcement post or in your blog’s side-bar) so that we can spread the word, gather excitement, and encourage participation. It goes without saying that this is meant to be a positive, fun, and educational event, so bigotry of any kind will not be tolerated.

Sign-ups are open from now through October 5th.  If you sign-up after October 5th, you can still absolutely participate, but you may not be eligible for some of the early giveaway prizes. 

To Share/Discuss on Twitter, Use Hashatag #TheLiteraryOthers

Posted in Monthly Review

Month in Review: July 2016

 

month-august-sparkler-8666899Yes, indeed, August is here! The eighth month of the year, which means July is somehow already gone, past, behind us. How exactly did that happen? 

August means back-to-school month, although that’s not quite accurate for me, considering I taught all summer long, too. Still, there’s something helpful about the routine of “going back to school” in the fall, and preparing for/planning the “year” ahead. There are things to do this fall, things to do next spring, and yadda yadda. 

But today is all about what happened in July, here on the blog. I’ve definitely been more active, and plan to continue on with that trend; however, I don’t plan on any kind of regular posting — when something comes up, when I feel like reviewing something or writing about a topic, I’ll do it. Otherwise, not. Isn’t that liberating!? 

One plan that is in the works, however, is the return of THE LITERARY OTHERS reading event. This is an LGBTQ+ reading event that I’ll be hosting in October, as part of LGBT History month. A sign-up post with call for volunteers will be posted here in the coming days, so please be on the lookout, and consider joining us! I’ll be looking for guest posts, author interviews, and giveaway hosts, too. 

Now, to review!

26114444Books Read in July: 9

  • A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis (3 out of 5)
  • The Nonbeliever’s Guide to Bible Stories by C.B. Brooks (3 out of 5)
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne (4 out of 5) 
  • The Last Interview and Other Conversations by Kurt Vonnegut (4 out of 5)
  • More Happy than Not by Adam Silvera (5 out of 5) 
  • Grace without God by Katherine Ozment (5 out of 5)
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (5 out of 5) (re-read)
  • Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter (5 out of 5)

Blog Posts:

Poetry Project Posts: 

That’s my month of July in a nutshell. I’m sorry that I didn’t get around to hosting Austen in August this year. I’ve been so busy that I completely forgot! I was asked about it just a few days ago, but of course it was much too late to plan and prepare at that point.

What have you been up to?  I’d love to know! 

Posted in Blog Post, Personal

Hold(en) Me Closer: A Reader’s Journey

Rye_catcherRecently, I re-read J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, following a re-read of the entire Harry Potter series. I guess you could say I’ve been in a nostalgic state, lately, and that mood has been manifesting itself in my reading choices. Much of what I’ve been choosing to read lately, aside from what I need to be reading for my work, has been books that I really connected with years ago or books with topics I’m very personally passionate about right now (writing, social justice, and religious studies).

Over the years, many books have influenced me in one way or another, whether it be in the way I read, in the way I treat people or the environment, or in the way I approach social, philosophical, religious, or educational ideas. One that I often think about, though, is a book that has had a profound impact on me as a person, not just as a reader: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The “why?” to this question is a bit difficult to answer. The relationship between Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, who suffered from schizophrenia (or bipolar disorder, there is some debate) and who was ultimately institutionalized, was the inspiration for the story. The main characters, Dick and Nicole Diver, are imprints of Francis and Zelda.

In my own life, a long time ago, I was mired in a similarly turbulent relationship. It was an experience which changed me immensely, for good and bad. For a long time during and after that relationship, I suffered from feelings of blame, remorse, and self-doubt; but, fortuitously, just as I was beginning to move forward, I stumbled across Tender is the Night. The story was so close to my heart, so similar, and so inspirational (not in-and-of itself, but to one with a similar history), that it truly connected me to my pain and allowed me to begin the healing process. It was one of a few distinct moments in my life when I realized that literature really does have the power to influence people, permanently.

Thinking about this has led me to consider, again, what brought me so passionately close to literature. What turned me into not just a reader, but a reader of this certain type?

It is difficult for me to pinpoint a single defining moment when I suddenly made a change, or became changed, in my habits, my attitudes, or what have you. There is a distinct difference, I think, between being a “reader” and being “literary.”  So, where did I “turn the page”?

When I was young, I certainly was not a reader. My family is probably still surprised that reading has become such an enormous part of my life. Had you asked any of them, even as I started college, what they thought of my eventually studying English and Literature in college and at the graduate level, and then teaching it professionally, they would probably have been rather baffled.

I was the “analytic” of the family, destined to be a lawyer or a doctor. I rarely read for pleasure as a child, aside from some Goosebumps and Hardy Boys books, now and again. In middle school, I was introduced to some books that began to needle at me, forcing me to look at reading as something fun and worthwhile. I distinctly remember reading The Giver and And Then There Were None in seventh grade, and I was shocked to have been so moved (by The Giver) and so entertained (by And Then There Were None).

Did I run out, right then and there, to start buying books and reading more?  No. But I was a bit more amenable to the idea. Similar experiences happened in high school, with books like Kaffir BoyLord of the Flies, and Of Mice and Men. The reading-level went up, and so did my enjoyment of the experience. I started to learn how to evaluate plot and structure, how to appreciate a good message, and how to look for story elements like themes, motifs, setting, and characterization. I even (naively) began to believe I could recognize what made a “good” story.

And then Harry Potter came along.  Suddenly, going into college, I was reading all the time. I devoured the first few Harry Potter books (at this point well below my reading level, but so fresh, so well-written and interesting, they couldn’t help but pique my need for even more good books). I took the “required” English courses for all students (I was, at the time, a Biology/pre-Med student) and then, on a whim, took an extra elective outside of the “Freshman Composition” realm – in American literature.

694681When I hit my junior year in college, I was introduced to writers like Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, and the Brontes. That was it for me. The Harry Potter books kept coming out, and I was always first in line at the midnight releases; but now, while waiting for these books, I found myself visiting the Literature section of the book store as well, picking out books like Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea to supplement my J.K. Rowling. I was having so much fun that, by senior year of college, most of my small apartment bedroom had turned into book storage, and I had changed my major to English. I can’t help but smile at this, today especially, as I prepare to attend tonight’s midnight release party for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I imagine I’ll also probably pick up some Virginia Woolf or Stephen King while I’m there at the bookstore counting down the hours with all the other fans, young and old. Some things never change.

So for me, “going literary” was somehow a slow and an instantaneous process. It feels like I went, overnight, from becoming someone who reads only what is required for class, to one of those obsessive junkies who, when reading one book, writes down every other author or book referenced in that book so that I can go out and read those, too. Indeed, this was a vicious cycle I was trapped in for a while, always trying to connect the dots between books and their influences, and those influences’ influences, and on and on.

I would have to say, the final turning-point was probably when I read The Mayor of Casterbridge for a senior-level English Literature class. I remember thinking, upon finishing: Well, Mr. Hardy, you’ve gone and done it. I am now hopelessly devoted to literature – and you’re to blame for this!

It’s nice to think about this journey, sometimes; it’s nice to reassess, from another vantage point in time, how I’ve become who I am. This is just one aspect of my self, of course, but it’s an important one. This last year, I stepped away from blogging and reviewing and much of the social media world in general, but I don’t think I could ever go away completely. I daydream about pulling the plug, but this space represents so much of who I am, influenced who I would become, and allowed me to go deeper and deeper into my own literary quest. Still, somewhere along that road, I detoured. I let the wrong things, the wrong goals and motives, take over. I lost who I was and what I had been trying to do all along.

If re-reading Catcher in the Rye has convinced me of anything, other than that I still adore that book and have been reminded, again, that each experience with a great book can reveal new things, it’s that it’s time for me to get back to taking my reading seriously, and to get back to the blog. But I want to do it “the right way” this time, by which I mean, the right way for me in this current phase of my life.

I imagine it’s going to be a very slow and painful process. But why should it be anything else?

Posted in Blog Post, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, writing

Writing On Writing

2016 was what I had planned to be, or hoped would be, my “year of writing.” One year to welcome many future years. I think I shouldn’t have included that second verb, hoped, after my original one, planned. This is part of the self-doubt that all “on writing” books seem to mention at some point or another, and most of them repeatedly.

downloadSpeaking of “on writing” texts, I’m currently reading Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary, which is wonderful so far (about 40% into it). And I’ve read three others in the last year. Each has been very different. The first was Stephen King’s On Writing which read more like a memoir highlighting much of the writing aspects of his life. This is perhaps appropriate when considering the rest of the book’s title, A Memoir of the Craft. I found this approach worked well, though. King spoke a lot about writing as it fits into real life, especially early writing in the “younger” life. He got his start much sooner than I, yet I hope I can still consider myself “young enough.” That might be wishful thinking.

48202The second read was Willa Cather’s On Writing, which was something else entirely. The second part of her title is Critical Studies on Writing as an Art. As that full title suggests, Cather’s is a collection of essays rather than a single narrative, as King’s is. Much of the essays are Cather discussing others’ works, though some are her reflections on how or why she wrote particular pieces of her own. Some few, like “On the Art of Fiction,” tackle the idea of “on writing” more directly. I enjoyed this one because it gave insight into how writers respond to other writers; what they look for, where they find strengths, what they consider weaknesses, who and what they admire, and why. It’s valuable information, especially coming from someone as supremely competent, knowledgable, and interesting as Willa Cather.

51JP9AJJVVL._AC_UL320_SR216,320_The third title is Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing. This one was a perfect middle road between King and Cather. It is a collection of essays, written over a number of years, like Cather’s, but it is much more personal and reflective, and written with a “new writer” audience in mind, like King’s. What I loved about Bradbury’s collection is that it is filled with so much joy, so much passion and support.

What I found interesting, if not surprising, is that despite their differences, each of these (and, now that I think of it, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, too, but it’s been a while since I’ve read that, so I’ll leave it out of discussion for now) shared some few important elements in common. What’s even more serendipitous is that the three things that stuck out to me the most are the very things I’ve struggled with for so long.

I. Be Honest & Trust Your Imagination

This first theme came up frequently, and in various ways, in all three books. I responded to it in two critical ways. In the first case, trust your imagination deals with those moments when you don’t feel like what you have to say is interesting, important, creative, fresh, valid, or whatever. It’s that common self-doubt all writers probably have at some point, and which forces them into writer’s block or exhaustion. I think this is especially important not just in getting started with the process, but in dealing with the many rejections that are certain to reach your inbox. King, Cather, and Bradbury all place importance on honesty, first; if you are telling a story that is true to you, and means something to you, stop thinking about it and let your imagination go…it will get somewhere, and you can deal with it when it’s done. Trust Your Imagination applies to another situation, though, which is within the story world itself. I once gave up on a novel, one that, in retrospect, I think has been my best idea and which continues to call to me every day (it’s the one I plan to return to on Monday, when I begin again). Part of why I gave up is because I felt like I had to know everything – every detail about the location, every detail about history of the region, the country. Every detail about the main character’s particular hobby, which I dove into researching and started making notes about. To some extent, yes, I need to know these things – but just enough of them. I never have to give the reader every single piece of history; if they wanted that, they’d go read a history book, right? This is something King, Cather, and Bradbury wrote about frequently over the course of their books. I’m not writing a manual, I’m writing a piece of fiction. There are some things that must be right (if my book takes place during the time of JFK’s assassination, okay, I’d better get the date right), but otherwise, I need to remind myself that most of the creation and interpretation and information gathering actually takes place in the reader’s mind. It’s that “show don’t tell” mantra all over again. And, wow, it’s such a relief. I feel like an apartment building has been lifted off me and I have begun to breathe and see again for the first time in a long time.

II. Be Honest & Forget About Money or Fame

This seems like it should be another no-brainer. If you love to write and you feel like you have something to say, or maybe might even be a little bit good at writing, then you should just find joy in writing. But who doesn’t think about their audience? I think about it constantly, and it intimidates me; it holds me back. I worry, mostly, about what my friends and family will think about my stories; will I reveal too much about myself in the telling? Do I really want to let them into the deepest, sometimes darkest, realms of my imagination and psyche? Then, I think about the general audiences, critics and consumers. Will anyone in the world be interested in what I write about? Will an agent take a chance? Will a publisher? It seems silly to think about all this before the writing has gotten very far, or even begun at all. Of course, it is silly to think about it then, or at all. But that doesn’t keep it from happening, and I doubt I’m the only one who experiences this. It’s probably my biggest hold up, and this is where King, Cather, and Bradbury all say: STOP IT. Write, just write. Love it. As with the theme above, be honest about it and why you’re doing it, but damn it, don’t do it for the money because that will probably never, ever come. Am I okay with that? Probably much more so now than I ever was before. Is it all entirely out of my head – fear of rejection, desire for fame? No, and maybe it won’t ever be entirely gone, at least not until I’ve found my stride and have begun to write every day, to be confident in it, and to really feel like I can, I must, go on with it. That’s going to be the persistent thought now. Instead of thinking about all these other people and their reactions, I’m going to try to simply be excited about my ideas and where in the world they’re going to take me.

III. Trust Yourself & WRITE!

Write, write, write. Boy, you’d think I was reading books on writing or something. King and Bradbury were especially surprising in their treatment of this topic. For some reason, I remember hearing, for most of my life, that writers should be prepared to write whenever the muse hits, to be prepared with pen and paper wherever they go, but that they should never “force” the writing. King and Bradbury, two of the most commercially successful writers of all-time, say this is hokum! Both of them write in highly regimented ways, working for a certain number of days every week (both of them say 6 days per week, holidays and birthdays included), and for a certain length of time (or word count, in their cases). Cather, too, expressed the necessity of writing all the time. King, Cather, and Bradbury, but especially Bradbury, reinforced the idea that writing, like anything, is a skill (and an art) that can only get better with practice and honesty to one’s self and ideas. This is something I tell my students all the time: you can’t become a better writer if you don’t read and write a lot. The more you do those things, the better you’ll be able to see the strengths and weaknesses, the necessary moves and adjustments to make in your own work. So, there’s a bit of “practice what you preach” for the old English professor! I’ve always thought of myself as a writer, and in many ways I do and have written every day, but the missing piece of the puzzle was also found in King’s, Cather’s, and Bradbury’s examinations: write in the genre you want to be most successful in. My writing has been primarily academic and scholarly, for coursework and such, or blogging, for the general love of talking about literature. In my mind, though, when I think of myself as a writer, that is not the kind of writing I’m thinking about.

While reflecting on these three books and thinking about all of the great advice therein, I began to work on my plan for the coming semester. I originally wanted to schedule out my days and workload for the entire term, September through December, but I decided to begin with the month of August, for two reasons: the first reason is practical; I’m scheduled to teach four courses this semester, beginning on August 22nd, but I only know for sure that two of those courses is going to run; so, if the other two courses do not run, then I’ll be adjusting my entire schedule — why do five months of planning to change it all in two weeks? The other reason is because I need to know that what I propose for August is actually feasible and can be maintained for the entire semester. If it is, I’ll expand – – not a big deal.

What is the plan? Well, I have designated times for working on my dissertation, for teaching, for exercise, for writing articles, and for grading/planning each of my classes week-to-week, as well as for required, reoccurring meetings that come as a result of an existence in academia. There are two benefits to this plan, I think. The first benefit of being so strict with myself is that I can see what needs to be done when, and I can hold myself accountable to everything I need to do without letting it pile up. Old habits of last year left me scrambling at the end of every single week to do much too much work; hence, I didn’t do nearly enough of what I should have. The other benefit is that it doesn’t only show me my “work” time; it also shows me all the time that is my own, to do whatever. There’s not a lot of free time, but there definitely is some every day, and that calms me. Again, last year, I felt like I was always busy, but that’s mostly because I was being stupidly irresponsible with my time.

I might not get my book written this year, because I’m writing a dissertation; but I will get that dissertation written, and I will work on my book, too, and I’ll still be able to do other things.

King, Cather, and Bradbury. Delightful kicks-in-the-pants. Woolf, keep me honest! 

Posted in Blog Post, Misc

A Few of My Favorite Things

cropped-il_340x270-576144326_3pqt.jpgI saw this on a friend’s blog and it looked like fun. Also, it’s nearing the end of summer term and I’ve been grading papers like a crazy person, so I thought I’d pause and have a bit of fun.

A book you’ve read more than onceThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Many times.

A book you would take on a desert islandLes Miserables by Victor Hugo.

A book that made you cryThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.

A book that scared you: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

A book that made you laugh out loudGentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos..

A book that disgusted you: Hogg by Samuel R. Delaney. I couldn’t finish it…which is saying a lot. I finish everything.

A book you loved in preschoolAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst!

A book you loved in elementary school: The Choose Your Own Adventure books and the Goosebumps series.

A book you loved in middle schoolThe Giver by Lois Lowry.

A book you loved in high school: Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

A book you hated in high school: Oh, I really hated The Great Gatsby. Isn’t that funny?  I’ve read it many times, since, and even have a t-shirt of the book cover, now!

A book you loved in college: The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy and The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot.

A book that challenged your identityAngels in America by Tony Kushner. Technically this is two plays, but damn. Also, In Tall Cotton by Charles G. Hulse – I read this one when I was in 7th or 8th grade & it helped me come to terms with my sexuality.

A series that you love: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (since I mention my other favorite series’ later).

Your favorite horror book: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

Your favorite science fiction book: Something by Vonnegut, I guess…. The Sirens of Titan or Cat’s Cradle, if we’re going to call those science-fiction.

Your favorite fantasy book: Absolutely the Harry Potter series. And I really loved The Crimson Shadow series by R.A. Salvatore as well.  After Harry Potter, though, I think I have to go with The  Lord of the Rings.

Your favorite mysteryThe Woman in White by Wilkie Collins or And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Or all of the Sherlock Holmes books, if I’m allowed to do that?  Of course I’m allowed.

Your favorite biographySalinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno.

Your favorite classic: Oh, good grief. Unanswerable. Let’s say The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, for the sake of saying something.

Your favorite romance book: Not sure what romance means, here. I don’t read “romance” but I definitely read “Romantic” literature. I’m guessing we’re looking for things along the lines of Nicholas Sparks, though, in which case – nil. I kind of just want to say Gone With the Wind to be ironic (because so many people describe it as a romance, but it’s not – oh, the same for Rebecca!)

Your favorite book not on this list: Let’s go with The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

What book are you currently reading: A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf

What book have you been meaning to readBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates