Category Archives: Miscellany

Stuff in my life that doesn’t fit into any other category. Look here for the hilarious observations.

Hints and tips for attending BookCon — 2018 recap

A friend and I attended BookCon (held in New York in early June) for the first time this year, and we learned a lot. Going in, we had no idea what to expect, so I’ve created a list that may help other first timers. Hope these hints and tips help you plan for your next trip to BookCon:

Do:  Ask politely. If you’re not sure where to go, what a line is for, or whether a booth is giving something away for free, just walk up to someone and ask. I was handed so many cool books, and met lots of nice people, just by asking what was going on.

Don’t: Be a jerk about it. There were some attendees who were so persistent that they ended up annoying the poor booth workers. If someone says no, whether because you’re too late for a giveaway, because something isn’t free, or because you need to go get in a line, politely take the no and walk away. Don’t make their lives hard.

Do: Leave room in your luggage. I literally couldn’t believe the amount of free stuff, including tons of book ARCs, that I took home.

Don’t: Get angry. So you weren’t fast enough to get in the line. Or the plinko game didn’t give you the book you wanted. Remember that, if that one book is important enough to you, you’re going to read it anyway, whether someone hands it to you for free, or you buy it, or you borrow it from the library. It’s just a book.

Do: Ask to trade. If you see someone with a book you wanted and a skeptical look on their face, offer to trade. You might not be the only one whose wheel spin didn’t give them the exact book they were wishing for.

Don’t:  Decide you’re entitled. Everyone is there for the same reason. Pushing in line, cutting, trying to force a trade, or shoving someone else down to the floor (yes, we actually saw a girl with a huge gash across her leg because she had been pushed down) to get to the book you wanted is never okay. You know better than that.

Do: Make friends in line. Again, everyone is there for the same reason, and you might be surprised how much you have in common with the people in line near you!

Don’t: Miss out on the panels. We met some people who were so focused on the free books (which, let’s be honest, they’re probably not even going to read all of them) that they forget there’s more to BookCon. Namely, the amazing panels, almost all free to attend with your BookCon ticket. It was so exciting to hear some of my favorite authors talk about the interesting worlds they’d created with their stories, or about where they get ideas.

Do: Plan ahead. Someone I met in line told me about an amazing spreadsheet, created by @DailyJulianne and posted on Twitter, that gave me insight into everything happening at every hour of the day. Using her lovingly crafted spreadsheet (which she provides for free to the public) saved me SO MUCH time. If you check out her spreadsheet next May to plan for BookCon 2019, be sure to buy her a coffee through the link on her tweet. It’s so worth it.

Don’t: Forget to have fun. On the flip side of planning, be sure to give yourself the time and grace to just explore. If you’re so focused on which line to get to at which time, or busy comparing how much free stuff you got to how much someone else got, you may miss out on the experience.

Happy Reading!

Remember to have already written a post about time travel panel. Check!

I went to BookCon 2018 in New York, and attended a bunch of great panels. Of course, I won’t post the content of anyone’s actual presentation, as that’s not mine to share. However, I hope you benefit from these thoughts on what I learned, and some ideas on how I plan to apply them in my own journey.

“Oh, so you’ve figured out how time travel works?”

I traveled to another dimension (maybe) to sit in on a great (definitely) panel all about using time travel in writing with some of my favorite (amazing) authors in the world — Deborah Harkness, Naomi Novik, and V.E. Schwab. Talk about a dream panel to discuss time travel!

Here are a few of my favorite things each of them had to say:

DH: Time travel in your story shouldn’t be a straitjacket, or a narrow set of rules. It’s funny when a reader comes up to me and says, about one of my books, “But that’s not how time travel works.” I like to reply with, “Oh, so you’ve figured out how time travel works?” Your goal is to transport the reader, and time travel is another way to do that, whatever way works best for the story.

NN: People have always been people, and you can have a lot of fun when you put people in situations that are unusual to them. No matter what era you’re writing about, whether you transport someone from the present to the past or the past to the future, it’s only the context that has changed. Humans, from the things we care about, to the things that pain us, to the things we fear, are shared, and therefore relatable.

VS: Physical location may be as close as we can get to time travel. We have records of what happened, but those are a very small slice of reality. There are stories behind why some things are still standing, and why others were lost, and a gravestone, building, or artifact that still exists today can be a small way to touch a piece of that history. But there is opportunity for a new story when we bring our own interpretation, context, and lens to the information.

There was plenty more, and the panel gave me a lot to think about as I am incorporating time travel elements in my own writing.

How about you? Do you have thoughts about how time travel should (or shouldn’t) be used in a story? What’s your favorite (or least favorite) example of time travel? Please share in the comments.

Happy time traveling!

Photo of tunnel by Ghost Presenter on Stocksnap
Photo of clock face by Tuur Tisseghem on Stocksnap
Photo of historic buildings by Tim Martin on Unsplash

What karate and writing have in common

Hint: it’s not about the fancy belts.

At my kids’ karate class the other day I realized that anyone can do karate. Even small kids. However, when the sensei showed off a nunchuck kata that involved multiple backflips, I also realized that it takes a good deal of discipline to do karate really, really well. Maybe more than the amount my kids want to put in.

Options immediately began to run through my brain.

  1. They’re never going to be as great as the sensei. Pull them out immediately. (Option rejected for being reactionary.)
  2. They’re never going to be as great as the sensei. Let them do whatever they were already going to do, even if it means only practicing once per week. (Option rejected for feeling like I’m not giving my kids enough credit.)
  3. Forget how good the sensei is. My kids could be better than they are. Convince them to keep working. Add an extra practice here and there. Set a reasonable goal and work towards it, and when they reach it, set another. (We have a winner! You already knew this was where this was going, right?)

Yep, work harder. Do a little every day. See big gains from small changes. Turns out all of the advice I’ve been reading about writing (rather than actually doing the writing) also applies to karate.


A few ways writing is not like karate:

  • Fancy uniforms and cool belts (sure, you can wear them while writing, but it’s not required)
  • The amount and variety of punches (yes, sometimes writing makes me feel like punching something, but I mostly don’t)
  • There seems to be less editing in karate (though you do have to do the same thing over and over until you get it right)

A few ways writing is like karate:

  • They both require discipline
  • They both take time
  • They are both a commitment if you want to do them well

The comparison solidified for me that if you think a thing is worth doing, whether it’s a sport like karate, a passion like writing a book, a goal such as losing weight, or a long-held desire like becoming a better polka dancer, you have to spend time doing it to improve. You have to keep doing it if you’re ever going to do it better. Period.

Any thoughts on similarities and differences between writing and karate? Check in with me in the comments.

Happy [insert a hobby/goal/passion of your choice]-ing!

P.S. Yes, if you’ve been following along this whole time you know this isn’t the first post where I’ve “figured this out.” The knowledge has been in me the whole time. I just have to keep reminding myself to stay motivated. Small things. Every day. 🙂

Photo of practicing on the beach by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash
Photo of karate master wearing a black belt by Leslie Jones on Unsplash

Ten minutes a day, every day.

I keep hearing advice that I can accomplish so many things in just ten minutes per day.

“Just ten minutes a day to a better body.”

“It only takes ten minutes a day to declutter your life.”

“Write for ten minutes a day to finally finish that book.”

At the heart of it, this advice is not wrong. The key, though, is that you need to do the thing for ten minutes a day, EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I’ve been trying to form a better writing habit, and have hit a few small roadblocks:

Aside: I love that this photo was taken by someone named Jamie Street.
  • Once I’m at the computer it’s not hard to write for ten minutes, but getting myself to sit in front of the computer can sometimes be a real struggle. I’m trying to combat this by scheduling the ten minutes at a time when I don’t have any other priorities, so there’s no excuse.
  • Ten minutes per day is not the way to see quick results. And it’s so easy to get discouraged when the results aren’t obvious. My advice to myself has been to just keep at it. Be patient. Build the momentum. Keep aiming for the ten, and sometimes I might find more time.
  • Also, ten minutes per day on one thing is relatively easy to find. Ten minutes per day for each of the things is much more daunting. A writing habit would be great, but so would an exercise habit, or a decluttering habit. I’ve discovered that I have to focus on one first or else I get scattered. I decided the writing habit is most important to me right now. Once I have that down, maybe I can add another ten minute per day goal.

How about you? Have you tried to form a habit by doing something for ten minutes a day? How’s it working out for you? Let me know in the comments.

Happy writing!

Photo of stopwatch by Agê Barros on Unsplash
Photo of road signs by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Why you should read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is not a review. It’s more like a love letter, in multiple parts, arranged like a book report. By the end, you’ll know why you should immediately read Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert’s book about creative living.

Why did I choose to spend my time on this book?

I. I have never read anything by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m super glad Eat.Pray.Love. was a success, but it didn’t speak to me so I didn’t read it.

II. I was drawn to Big Magic because of the title (who doesn’t love magic, and if it’s big so much the better!) as well as the description. An excerpt: “With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration.”

III. I always enjoy when an author records his or her own book, and this one was read by Elizabeth Gilbert herself.

IV. Full disclosure: I was looking for something pretty quick to listen to, and this one was only about four hours worth of listening time.

Why do I think you should spend your time on the book?

I. It was totally inspiring! Yes, some parts weren’t for me (e.g. I’ve never worried about “seeming” like a writer). But I found myself wanting to get back to creating even as I listened to her talk about creating.

II. Even if you’re not a writer, she talks about creative living in general, and her examples apply to just about anything you could want to try, from getting into a new sport (even if you thought sports were just for the young), to making something with your hands, to finally finishing that novel.

III. She is no-nonsense, and funny. From stories about her ice skating friend to her lobster-costume-wearing brother, the anecdotes made her points while making me smile.

IV. She is right. We each have some kind of creativity inside of us. Something that speaks to the soul. Something that wants to be recognized just for the sake of being recognized, no matter whether it “amounts to anything.” Also, her list of the fears we all face were spot on.

V. At no time did it feel like she was preaching at me. If anything, it felt like she was on the same journey, and trying to make sense of it while accidentally helping me make sense of it by sharing.

Thus, whether you are planning a creative endeavor, feel stuck on what you’re working on, or haven’t felt creatively charged for a long time, this is a pretty quick read, and if it inspires you as much as it did me you’ll find yourself back on track.

Thanks, Elizabeth Gilbert.

Happy Creating!

Photo of reading in a coffeeshop by Freely Photos on stocksnap.io

Weasley is our king, and other writing inspiration.

On a road trip with the kids over the weekend, we listened to the fifth Harry Potter book (The Order of the Phoenix). It was the first time the kids had read that one, and I warned them ahead of time about some of the things that might be frustrating about the book. I remembered it as one of my least favorite because Harry is so moody the whole time. Oh, and don’t get me started on Dolores Umbridge… grrrrr.

But as we listened I found myself laughing out loud much more often than I’d expected. I forgot all of the lovely, funny quips and comments that J.K. Rowling peppers throughout her books, and Order of the Phoenix has so many of these. Also, Rowling knows how to write characters you care about (or love to hate), and storylines where you can’t wait to find out what happens.

Plus, the song. I had completely forgotten about the song. (“…he always lets the quaffle in…”)

I was inspired! I’ve been on a bit of a break from my own writing, but listening to Harry Potter made me want to pick it back up. And so, as Dolores Umbridge might say…

I must make writing a daily habit.
I must make writing a daily habit.
I must make writing a daily habit.
I must make writing a daily habit.
I must make writing a daily habit.
I must make writing a daily habit.
I must make writing a daily habit.
I must make writing a daily habit…

Happy writing!

Image of crown by Ryan McGuire on Stocksnap.io
Image of pen and paper by Aaron Burden on Stocksnap.io

My New Year’s Revolutions

Happy 2018!

No, the title of this post is not a typo. The other day, in the serious way of the very young, my 6-year-old asked me what my New Year’s revolutions were going to be. We had a good chuckle and a quick explanation of the difference between “revolution” and “resolution.”

I explained that I normally don’t set resolutions. This is for many reasons, not least of which that it feels like setting myself up for failure.

Do I have to fail? Nope.

Would a good action plan help? Almost certainly.

But the cultural norm is to laugh about resolutions. To make a joke of them before they even start. (I can’t be the only one who is astounded by the number of people whose automatic response to hearing you’re going to do something new is to say something like, “Do you know what percentage of resolutions fail within the first month?” How is that supposed to be helpful?!)

So, most years I just choose not to set a resolution. I begin the year the way I mean to go on, and I don’t think too much more about it.

But my conversation with my son got me thinking. Upon reflecting on the way that each year is a revolution of the Earth around the sun, and each day is a small piece of that revolution with the Earth twirling itself around, we decided that “revolutions” might be a fitting name for those things I’d like to take on in the new year after all.

Therefore, I’m going to use the days of 2018 to make some revolutions of my own.

  1. I’m going to revolve the way I think about cooking dinner. It’s not usually my job, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy doing it once in a while. I have a new wok (the only Christmas present I asked for), and I’m going to learn to use it. Not a resolution, but it could be revolutionary to our meal planning.
  2. I’m going to revolve the way I think about Saturday mornings. Every Saturday, I drive my daughter an hour each way to fencing class, and sit, trying to work for the two hours of class, but really watching the fencers. I’m already there. Why shouldn’t I try something new and get some exercise at the same time? I’m now a beginner fencer, and learning the moves and steps has already begun to been revolutionary for my muscle groups.
  3. I’m going to revolve the way I’m thinking about writing my book. I’ve been treating it like a chore. It’s not under deadline by some other entity. It’s up to me — do I want to finish telling this story or not? If I do, I’d better make a plan to get it done. For real this time. Finally getting my book done will be revolutionary after sitting on it for so long.

In what ways are you going to revolve your thinking this year? I’d love to hear more about it in the comments!

Happy revolving!

Photo of calendar page by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
Photo of journal page by Estée Janssens on Unsplash
Photo of coffee mug by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

Homeschooling isn’t wrestling, either.

“Imagination is our greatest gift and our greatest curse…” -Max Landis, from his short film Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling

I’ve been on a Max Landis kick. Ever since I listened to his episode of the Nerdist podcast a few years ago I’ve been intrigued by the way he tells stories. After seeing his recent tweet about his mom and the Jeopardy question about costumes for Indiana Jones, I ended up finding, and reading, his entire treatise on Carly Rae Jepsen, watched The Death and Return of Superman, and then Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling.  [Fair Warning: his stuff, including the above linked tweet and video, tends to be NSFW]

Two immediate reactions:

1) He shared that the first thing people say to him about wrestling is, “You know it’s fake, right?” It reminded me of the way people react when I announce that I homeschool. It’s frustratingly predictable, and coming from someone who has no experience of it, a response like this almost feels designed to make you feel bad about yourself.

2) Max Landis isn’t going to feel bad about himself, and neither am I. His contention, quoted above, is that people need drama and stories because our infinite imaginative capacity can leave us bored, and wrestling fills that gap for him. “We love watching people grow, change, struggle. Good people; bad people. We don’t care. We want to see it, man.”

This is closer to what wrestling looks like at our house.

Reading and writing, homeschooling, and even falling down the Max Landis rabbit hole all charge up my imagination in different ways.

Max Landis probably isn’t for everyone. But the stuff that is “for everyone” tends to get bland and watered down anyway. So if you’re feeling daring, check his stuff out. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite source of entertainment to satisfy your ever-hungry imagination.

Happy doing-whatever-it-is-you-like-to-do-best-ing!

Wrestlers photo by Martin Kníže on Unsplash
Panda photo by Jackson Ingraham on Unsplash

The key to #happiness. #inspiration #quote

“The great Western disease is, ‘I’ll be happy when… When I get the money. When I get a BMW. When I get this job.’ Well, the reality is, you never get to ‘when.’

“The only way to find happiness is to understand that happiness is not out there. It’s in here. And happiness is not next week. It’s now.” ~Marshall Goldsmith, American Author

Got this quote in my email the other day. I was struck by the idea: so, I just have to decide I’m happy, and I am happy?

I was enamored of the story of Pollyanna as a child and try to model my thinking after her when I can remember to. But seeing it laid out so simply really inspired me.

Of course, living it is a slightly trickier proposition. Sometimes the brain — be it from hormones, low blood sugar, or early training — just doesn’t want to understand that happiness is believing you’re happy. But that’s the beauty of this way of thinking. Even if you’re having a bad day and can’t see happiness, that doesn’t cause it to go away forever. It just means that when you’re back to yourself tomorrow, you again decide that you’re happy, and you are.

I’m posting this one on the bulletin board behind my desk so I can be inspired by it every day!

Happy day!

Things that go bump… #weepingangels #doctorwho

Another night where I have work that needs doing, and it’s very difficult to do during the day when I don’t have any childcare help, but I’m thinking about everything else.

Here’s how the internal struggle has been going:

1) I’m not hungry, but suddenly decide I need a snack. There are salty dry roasted almonds and sweet dried pineapple downstairs in the pantry… a perfect match.

2) My house is a mess. It’s like a toy farm where toys are growing everywhere, and most especially on the carpet. If I go downstairs there’s a high percentage chance I will trip on one of these highly sustainable toy crops and possibly break something (me or the toy).

3) But I really do want a snack. Don’t need one, just want one. I should brave it.

4) In the hallway, looking down the stairs into darkness. What if there’s a Weeping Angel down there?*

weepingangles

5) I’m the mom now. I’m the adult in the house. It’s high time to stop worrying about silly things and just go get my snack!

6) But I don’t really need a snack. Though I do want one….

7) For goodness sakes woman!

8) Okay, down the stairs, flipping lights on as I go (harder for a Weeping Angel to sneak up on you when it’s light). And it’s snack time!

9) Maybe a quick game of Candy Crush while I’m near where I keep my cell phone docked….

10) Oh no! Has it already been almost an hour? I have GOT to get that work done!

11) What if there’s a Weeping Angel at the top of the stairs?

12) Back to the office. Now that the struggle is over, and I’m still avoiding work by writing a blog post about it, I feel that the snack was definitely justified. However, I’m starting to get really thirsty…

 

*while I realize Weeping Angels are fictional and therefore highly unlikely to be in my house, ever since I saw the Doctor Who episode called Blink I have been convinced that I’m going to find a seemingly innocent statue perched in my house in a place where it shouldn’t be, and as soon as I turn my back… BAM!