Monday, October 29, 2012

Mailbox Monday: Autumn edition

Ah, autumn!  So much to savor: the ravishing colors of leaves, the scents of simmering soup and cinnamon, the brightness of the days as they grow shorter.  In the evening I light some candles and want to change into my pajamas as early as possible and get lost in a book.  And I'm especially tempted by the books I've recently received in the mail.

I won Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund and Life with Lily by Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher on Renee's blog, Black 'n Gold Girl's Book Spot.  (I've already read--and enjoyed--Life with Lily; although this book is for children 8 and up, it was my my first taste of Amish fiction, and it's whetted my appetite for more.)   Watering Heaven is a collection of short fiction by writer Peter Tieryas Liu (which I hope to review before the end of this year), and Lola's Secret by Monica McInerney is for an upcoming TLC book tour.

Mailbox Monday, one of my favorite memes, is hosted by the Mailbox Monday blog this month. What books arrived in your mailbox recently, or from elsewhere?  Comments welcomed.

I hope everyone in the path of this monstrous storm stays safe!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Perspiration of Writing: A Guest Post by Kathy Leonard Czepiel

Attention aspiring authors!  This guest post may be especially helpful to apprenticing writers.

Today's guest is the recipient of a 2012 creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Her short fiction has appeared in many literary journals including Cimarron Review, Indiana Review, CALYX, Confrontation, and The Pinch.  I'm pleased to present a guest post by Kathy Leonard Czepiel, author of a book I've recently added to my TBR list, A Violet Season, a historical novel about a Hudson Valley violet farm on the eve of the twentieth century, when women's roles were just beginning to change.  Ms. Czepiel teaches writing at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and their two daughters.

The Perspiration of Writing: A Guest Post by Kathy Leonard Czepiel   

You’ve probably heard that famous quotation from Thomas Edison: “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” The same could be said of writing.  Much of what we do in the process of writing is less inspired than it is hard-earned. This bears pointing out because sometimes aspiring writers imagine they have to feel inspired in order to get to work.  The ancient stories of the Muses, the nine goddesses of the arts who are said to inspire poets and musicians and other artists, reinforce that belief.  If your muse isn’t feeding you her song, you won’t be able to write, the myth goes.  But I don’t know any successful writer who works only when her muse is singing.

In fact, it’s just about true, for me at least, that inspiration drives only one percent of my writing life.  The inspiration for my novel, A Violet Season, came from a surprising revelation I received in my twenties while working as a newspaper reporter in my hometown.  I learned that my town and a few towns around it had, at the turn of the twentieth century, been known as “The Violet Capital of the World.”  There was almost no evidence of that booming trade remaining.  I was inspired to learn more, and eventually, many years later, to write a novel about a mother and daughter living on a violet farm.  Built upon that initial inspiration was the work of crafting an intriguing plot and believable characters, researching many details of Victorian America and what was happening in the world at that time, figuring out how to frame the story and pace it and put it together into something people would want to read (even be unable to put down!).  Perspiration.

How we writers do our perspiring varies tremendously.  In addition to being a writer, I am a teacher and a mother, pulled in many directions at once, so I find I must schedule my writing time carefully and honor it faithfully.  I do not prescribe to the “you must write every day” credo, because my life simply doesn’t work that way.  Some days I teach, and some days I write.  When I’m writing, I am not checking my e-mail or touching base with Facebook.  I am at work, just as if my boss were looking over my shoulder.

I usually begin my writing mornings by rereading what I wrote last, in order to get back into the groove of my story. I also usually have a plan for what I’m going to do next, either because I’ve thought about it for awhile, or I’ve written a flexible outline. I almost never feel good about what I’m writing when I start, but about fifteen minutes in, I generally find my sea legs and sail off into the oblivion of the morning, and ultimately have to cut myself off when my time is up. Almost always, I could keep going. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m inspired, but at least I feel as if I know what I’m doing. Some writing days are devoted more to research, or to revision, which requires less straight sailing and more tacking back and forth over the same chapter or page or paragraph or sentence again and again.  All of this requires perspiration.

That’s no complaint.  It’s how we humans get stuff done.  And at the end of the morning, when you’ve created a new chapter or a better page not because your muse was singing but because you were hauling from one word to the next, well, that’s a satisfying thing.  A job well done.


Kathy, thank you very much for being my guest, and for your post, which encourages us to work hard (or harder), to be dedicated and persistent.  Inspiration is but the spark, the catalyst, for the real work ahead, in writing as in many other things.  I wish you inspiration and a healthy dose of perspiration in your future writing endeavors!  

Author photo by Chris Volpe.  Inspiration/perspiration photo by the author. Comments are welcomed and appreciated.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Magpie Tales #140: Annuit Cœptis

Since Providence has favored our endeavors, be fruitful and multiply.

This Mag was inspired by the photo from Tess Kincaid's Magpie Tales. Your feedback is highly appreciated.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sing You Home: Review and Gift Card Giveaway

Mission accomplished!  I've finally completed the reading challenge that I created a year ago, The Jodi Picoult Project.  My objective was to read three additional novels by Jodi Picoult, and I'm rather relieved to report that I've reached my goal--at last!

Time constraints have taken a serious toll on my reading the past few months, and it took me several weeks to read my third book for The Jodi Picoult Project, Sing You Home, published in 2011.  I picked up this book whenever I had a few minutes to spare, in various spots and locations, around the house, in my yard, waiting in my car, and I even did some reading outside one tranquil evening on a bench at the local arts center.

Since I purchased a used copy of this book on Amazon, it did not come with a CD, and I didn't download the soundtrack. But, I never felt as if I needed the music to read or understand the book (like the author herself, I love music and listen to it while I drive, but not when I'm reading or writing; I'd find that too distracting, although I could probably read with low, classical music playing in the background.)  Now that I'm done with the book, I may try to listen to the music, a collaboration between Jodi Picoult and singer Ellen Wilber, "the voice of Zoe".

"When I tell people I'm a music therapist, they think it means I play guitar for people who are in the hospital--that I'm a performer.  Actually, I'm more like a physical therapist, except instead of using treadmills and grab bars as tools, I use music.  When I tell people that, they usually dismiss my job as some New Age BS."
~Sing You Home, Jodi Picoult 

In Sing You Home,  Zoe Baxter is passionate about her career as a music therapist.  Through her job, Zoe meets a high school counselor, Vanessa Shaw, who wants her to work with a deeply troubled student, Lucy.  Zoe desperately wants to have a child, but has been very unlucky in this regard, in spite of extensive fertility treatments, and her marriage to Max suffers tremendously as a result.  That's nearly all I can say about this book without needing to add a major spoiler alert!

Best-selling author Jodi Picoult writes with her usual arresting honesty and sensitivity in this book, which features a love relationship between two women.  Set in Rhode Island, the author once again uses multiple perspectives to tell a story from all sides, and there's a legal battle as well. (I think Ms. Picoult would make an excellent lawyer; all the research she's done for her books would help her pass the Bar and win cases.)  In Sing You Home, we get the three perspectives of the main characters, Zoe, Max, and Vanessa, which provide an absorbing and well-rounded look at the complex issues and questions presented in the book, such as: who would make the best parents for a child?  (In my opinion, the best parents are simply people who truly want to raise and nurture children.)  She does not resort to stereotypes about gay people, but depicts them instead as unique individuals who deserve the same rights as everyone else.  At times I felt that the born again Christians in the novel were drawn in a stereotypical fashion, complete with holier-than-thou attitudes, but Max's brother's wife, Liddy, ultimately helps to balance this aspect of the book.


As promised, now that I've completed this reading challenge, I'm hosting a celebratory giveaway, for a $25 "Jodi Picoult Project" gift card from Amazon (good on anything sold by Amazon).  This giveaway is international.

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • If you've participated in this reading challenge, you will get an extra chance for each book you've read and posted on (please indicate the number in your comments). This reading challenge runs until the end of October.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Enter by 5 PM PST on Monday, November 5.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, November 6.  Good luck, and as always, thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Writing my Memwahhz: A Guest Post by Albert Flynn DeSilver

My guest today is an internationally published poet, author, teacher, speaker, and writing coach.  He specializes in writing and meditation workshops for young adults and families around the world.  In June of 2012, he released his new memoir, Beamish Boy: I Am Not My Story.  Please help me welcome Albert Flynn DeSilver to Suko's Notebook.  I think you'll enjoy reading this exclusive guest post as much as I did.


Writing my Memwahhz: A Guest Post by Albert Flynn DeSilver

The other day my neighbor said to me, “How’s it going with your memwhahz?”  “My what?” I replied, a bit confused.  I don’t remember having told her of a recent visit to my gastroenterologist. Then I thought she might have been trying to speak French (or perhaps it was Farsi?) to me and was failing miserably.  “Oh, oh, my memoir, yes, yes it’s going fine,” I said, finally. 

The most common reply I get from people when I tell them I’ve published a memoir is, “aren’t you a bit young to be writing your memoirs?”  (And I’m amazed at how often they do pronounce the word, like my neighbor, with a nasal faux-French-Farsi inflection.)  At which point I have to explain, “no, no, a memoir, singular, I’ve written a memoir!—I’m not in my sunset years writing the autobiography of my entire life, known as one’s memoirs (plural).” 

A memoir covers a section of a life.  It could be about the last three weeks of your best friend’s life before they went missing in the Alaska Wilderness, or the ten years it took you to get off prescription pills.  One of my favorite examples is Robin Romm’s book The Mercy Papers: A Memoir of Three Weeks, which is a beautiful and emotional chronicle of the last weeks of her mother’s life as she watched her die of cancer.  The opening description of the hospice nurse with her “blue teeth” is exquisite, and one of my favorite book openings, period.  She uses her dog, Mercy, as a soft metaphor and through-line to literally guide her emotionally through this difficult time in her life.  It’s almost written as a personal journal in conversation with her dog. (Dogs are such exquisite listeners, especially when the emotional stakes are high!)

Ever notice how Mary Karr’s memoirs are pretty much broken up into, childhood (The Liar’s Club), adolescence, high school, and early college (Cherry), and young and mid adulthood (Lit)?  This is not to say one can’t move through time chronologically, or for that matter experimentally, in a memoir. One of the great defining characteristics of contemporary memoir is the unique play of time—using flashback, dream sequence, and future projecting—my favorite example being Boys of my Youth by Joanne Beard. But what we are not doing is chronologically recalling an entire life (I did this, and then I did this, and finally here I am, old and wise).  Memoir as a genre has very much come into its own over the past twenty years, and is now filled with a vast array of narrative exploration of the true (as true as memory can be) personal account.  One of the latest incarnations is the “Immersion Memoir” where people are seeking out interesting, challenging, odd, or even dangerous experiences and completely immersing themselves in the situation and experience in order to write about it. “My Year Living as a Buddhist Nun in Burma” or “My Time Working for Minimum Wage in a Slaughterhouse in Iowa,” might be examples. I suppose if “Supersize Me” was a book it could be considered an “Immersion Memoir.” Such books include elements of travelogue, documentary script, and deep investigative journalism. The point being that at it’s best memoir (singular) explores a portion of a life lived in a unique, open way, is filled with adventurous experiences, transformation, lessons learned, a solid story structure, and prose that shimmers off the page as lusciously as any novel—as devoutly musical and metaphoric as any great poem.


Albert, thank you for this humorous and insightful guest post about the genres of memoirs, memoir, and the new proliferation of "immersion memoir" (perfect name).  Best of luck with your memoir!  Although maybe you don't need any luck, as Kirkus Reviews calls Beamish Boy “a beautifully written memoir. . .poignant and inspirational, comical and terrifying!”

Comments are welcomed. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Really Random Tuesday #54: Banned Books and a Book Winner

Pick a book, any book.  Chances are good that it's been banned at one time or another.  You might be be surprised at some of the seemingly innocent books that have been banned over the years, books pictured below, as well as numerous others, including James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

For school, my daughter is currently reading a novel that I also read during my school days, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, a book that has been banned in the past.  And she recently read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for school, which is on the list of banned books below.  According to the official Banned Books Week website, the top 10 banned books of last year are:

  1. ttyl, ttfn; L8r, g8r  (series) by Lauren Myracle
  2. The Color of Earth (graphic novel series) by Kim Dong Hwa
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  4. My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy by Dori Hillestad Butler 
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  6. Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  8. What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
  9. Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This year, Banned Books Week lasts from September 30 through October 6.  BBW began in America in 1982, in response to the great number of books that have been banned by schools and libraries for various reasons, such as offensive language, and sexual and religious content.  2012 marks the 30th anniversary of BBW.  In conjunction with BBW, Sheila from Book Journey is hosting a cleverly named special event this week for readers, Jump on the Banned Wagon, which I learned about on Petty's blog, Pen and Paper

You might want to exercise your freedom in celebration of BBW and read a book that is or has been banned. The book I'll be reading this week is most likely on a banned book list right now, Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult (my final novel for The Jodi Picoult Project).


Please help me to congratulate the randomly chosen, lucky winner of The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli,  Harvee from Book Dilettante.  If you didn't win this time, please check the right side of my blog for other book giveaways.  I often add new giveaways to my sidebar, so be sure to visit again soon.


Appearing on random Tuesdays, Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of.  Often I announce my book giveaway winners in these posts.  If you're inspired by this idea, feel free to "grab" the button for use on your own blog, and indicate your participation in the comments so I'll know to stop by.  For other recent Really Random Tuesday posts, please visit Naida's blog, the bookworm, and Vivienne's blog, Serendipity Reviews (after today, I won't be mentioning other recent RRT posts).  As always, your comments are welcomed.

Some of the books featured here were given to me free of charge by authors, publishers, and agents. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


Blog header by Held Design

Powered By Blogger