Booklikes: My New Website Crush

October 7, 2013

Book blogs have been around for as long as the Internet has been, and WordPress alone probably has hundreds of them. But now there’s a website created for the sole purpose of hosting book blogs, making it super easy to connect books to your entries, with templates for book reviews and quotes from books ready to go. Perhaps that doesn’t sound all that much more special than just inserting images and links to any old blog, but there’s something magical about a blogging site that’s all books, all the time. I think I’m a little bit in love.

The website is BookLikes, and it’s got an interesting story. Initially, its main attraction was its book recommendation engine. Then it crashed, losing all its data … but rather than throw in the towel, its creators listened to what the initial users were saying, which was that they wanted a site devoted to book blogs. So BookLikes was born anew, and I found and fell in love with it in its current state.

My kitty loves books, too!

I’m already an avid user of a couple other book websites. I post reviews of everything I read on Goodreads, and I inventory the books I own at LibraryThing. You can use BookLikes to inventory and review books, too, and in fact, I do cross post my Goodreads reviews there (as well as some of the posts from this blog, when they relate explicitly to books.) But it’s also provided a place for me to reflect more intimately on the books I’m reading, to share thoughts in progress or to connect books to my own life and memories in a way that I don’t in more straightforward reviews. I don’t think anyone much reads them, but that’s okay. I find the process of creating alone to be cathartic and rewarding.

So, if you haven’t checked it out, do stop by. And if you’re already a Booklikes convert, let’s “follow” each other. Hope to see you there!


Writing Groups, Critiques, Scrivener, and Long Drives

January 28, 2013

Photo courtesy of Jim Brekke — unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera on the trip.

I’ve had an incredibly enriching weekend for my writing life. On Friday I put my dog in the back of the car and made a 7-hour trek up to my old stomping grounds in Duluth, Minnesota. Along the way, I stopped to visit a friend that I met at writer’s camp when we were both 15, and I received some more valuable feedback for my Rumplestiltskin retelling. I’m excited to put it through another round or revisions this month, and possibly start submitting it this year. I’m particularly interested in submitting this to ebook markets because of its awkward length (it’s neither a short story or a novel at about 28,000 words.) If you know of a market that might be a good fit, I’d love to know about it!

My friend has also just finished her degree in graphic and web design, so we got the opportunity to brainstorm the webpage I want to set up soon for my freelance work.

In Duluth, I met with my speculative fiction writing group in person for the first time in almost a year (one of whom has just started her own blog here). What a treat! There’s so much more laughter when I get to be there in person and can catch everyone’s facial expressions and the nuances in their voices. I submitted the first eight pages of my Rapunzel retelling, and it was eye-opening to have some thoughts other than my own on the piece. It’s always fascinating, and enlightening, to see what other minds and eyes find in the words you’ve written. I’m realizing more and more how complicated this revision is going to be. But I’m still looking forward to it!

Which leads to a few more of my thoughts on using Scrivener for writing. I didn’t like that there wasn’t an easy way for me to export just part of the document to another format (.doc or .rtf), so that to convert just a few pages to submit to the group, I had to either copy and paste them or export more than I needed and then delete everything that wasn’t ready for review. Also, the font conversion was absolutely appalling when I opened it in Windows, with weird spacing issues every time I used an apostrophe. So I’m still on the fence about whether using Scrivener for rewrites is a good fit. (I do think the conversions would have been a little cleaner if I hadn’t already stripped formatting to import the document into Scrivener in the first place.)

HOWEVER, I also used Scrivener for brainstorming and outlining a set of concept albums I’m working on when I had to wait for new tires to be put on my car Friday morning (and thank goodness, because I needed those good tires to get me through Winter Storm Luna on my drive home last night). And I LOVED Scrivener’s features for this part of the creation process. I loved being able to create a notecard for each plot development, with the option to include as much or as little information about the scene as I wanted. And I love how easy it is to move ideas around and resort them as I develop the story around the music I’m using. This isn’t a writing project per se, in that the songs will tell the story and I”m just stringing them together, but it’s still too big for me to hold in my brain. And right now, Scrivener is holding all those details quite nicely, and making this step of the process very easy and energizing rather than overwhelming. Because the initial creation process is always the most daunting to me, Scrivener might be just what I need to get through it with less stress.

While in Duluth, I stayed in a bedroom above a friend’s shop out in the woods. Quiet, private, and the perfect place to read Thomas Merton and journal about my return to the city I love more than any other. And of course, all that driving time isn’t bad for getting the creative juices flowing, either. The hardest part is finding the time to implement them all once I’m back home.

Back to Writing … at Last!

May 10, 2012

After the long wedding-induced haitus, I am SO GLAD to be back to writing at last. A lot has happened in my “writing life” even though very little of it was actually writing. But hey, the writing world didn’t stop spinning because I neglected my desk. Imagine that!

  1. My favorite piece of news is that Katya Gordon’s sailing memoir, Big Waves, Small Boat, Two Kids just came out. I had the pleasure of working as an editor on this book, and it’s one of my favorite pieces that I’ve ever worked on. It’s one of those stories that I find myself thinking about, and drawing inspiration from, often. For example: when I was stressed about not having enough room in the 600-sq-foot house I now share with my husband, I thought about how Katya spent a year living in a much smaller boat with her husband and two kids, no less. And when I was in Florida for my honeymoon, I found myself wondering about the lives of the cruisers we saw docked out there. If you like memoir, or nature adventures, or stories about individuals and families figuring out just where they belong in this world, definitely consider checking out this book.
  2. The cover for Hungering and Thirsting for Justice came in. How magical it is to have stuff “just happen” on your book without you after a couple years of squeezing work on said book in at every opportunity? I like this “it’s with the publisher” business.
  3. I got an email from the editor of the anthology Unruly Catholic Women Writers, in which I have a piece, telling us that she has “good news” about the book … but, I haven’t heard what that is yet. Looking forward to it!

My attempt at doing NaPoWriMo was a bit of a failure. I kept it up diligently and doggedly, writing mostly very bad poems, until about three days before the wedding. Then after the wedding, rather than pick up where I left off … I totally forgot that I was supposed to be writing poetry at all. Well, there’s always next year!

My husband devotes his Fridays to working on his own business, and I’m thinking that I would like to try something similar — to dedicate that same time to my writing. Not tomorrow, though, because I have a big pile of freelance work to catch up on. I’ll be working from a desk (downgraded from an office) in the living room because the basement office isn’t finished yet. Ivan still works on his computer down there, but I cannot abide the cold concrete and dimness. One must have some standards!

It’s good to be back!

The Writing Itch

August 3, 2009

Some writers thrive on chaos. I am not one of them. My writing thrives on routine, so summer, with its irresistable activities and travels, is always hard on my manuscripts. Add to that the fact that I’m preparing for a move — and I’ve already admitted that I don’t write so well in transition — and my current manuscript has been shamefully neglected. Whenever this happens, I start to panic a little. What if I never pick that manuscript up again? What if this is the end? What if I’m not really a writer?

But I’ve learned time and again that my time away from writing is limited, no matter how much I panic. My current hold-up was that I knew I needed to get some clear plot and organizational direction before I went forward on my novel, and I was waiting for that “perfect opportunity” to sit down and do some serious outlining and untangling. The need to do so started pressing on me last week, until the breaking point on Thursday night. I had just finished my critiques for my writers group, and I could not go another minute without working on my own novel. I stayed up late at my “back-up” writing desk (the one not pictured in my writing space photos because of its messiness) and had a solid plan for moving forward before I went to bed. By Saturday, I’d begun writing scenes again (seated at the laptop at my — clean — primary desk).

These moments are always reassuring to me. When I finish a manuscript, I often breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to the “break” from working on it. But I’ve found that if the break lasts longer than a couple months, I start to “break” a little myself. And I know then that, whatever kind of success or lack of it I get from my writing, I will always be a writer. That is, at least if I want to stay sane — or relatively so.

My Writing Space

July 29, 2009

Reading that the NaNoWriMo blog* is hosting pictures of writing spaces all throughout August inspired me to take some pictures of mine, humble though it may be. I’ve also been meaning to get photos before I set up a brand new writing space in my new home in six weeks (exciting!!)

Lacey's Duluth Office

The boxes and blue bag around the corner of the printer cart are more gifts of one-sided paper from a woman in my writers' group and my dad's business. Yay for recycling!

I got the little black file box on the right side from New Moon when they moved offices. It was the "Luna bin," which collected letters from girls to Luna, the Spirit of New Moon. I needed extra file space, but I would have taken it for sentimental reasons even if I didn't. Right now, it's full of one-sided paper, also from New Moon's house-cleaning.

I got the little black file box on the right side from New Moon when they moved offices. It was the "Luna bin," which collected letters from girls to Luna, the Spirit of New Moon. I needed extra file space, but I would have taken it for sentimental reasons even if I didn't. Right now, it's full of one-sided paper, also from New Moon's house-cleaning.

My office is small, but generally tidy. I don’t work well in a mess; it’s so distracting that I have to clean up before I can get anything serious done.

Since I have a studio apartment, elements of my office are scattered elsewhere, too — my writing books and magazines are on a bookshelf in what might be called the “kitchen,” and there’s a desk my grandfather made filled with manuscript drafts in the corner behind the desk in my photos. Manuscripts are messy,  so that desk stays closed except when I’m retrieving something from it. I look forward to having walls between my rooms again, so that all my writing and working goodies can be with one another–for the first time ever!

* I can’t believe there are only about 90 days till the next NaNoWriMo. I won’t be participating this year because I’ll be in Germany for most of November — but it’s nearness does give me a bit of a kick in the pants to get last year’s NaNo untangled. Sometimes, writing a novel in a month may not be very time-saving at all. 😉

My Life’s Change of Setting

July 14, 2009

It looks like the move I hinted at in my earlier entry is a go. The decision to go forward with it has everything to do with my desire to be a writer.

I’ve always considered myself a “serious” writer because I’ve always found a way to integrate writing into my life. But in the last couple years, I’ve begun making decisions specifically with the goal of writing in mind. I decided to transition to doing freelance work full-time so that I’d have more control over my schedule, and thus, more flexibility to write. The transition has been successful for the most part, but I’m still not writing as much as I’d like to. Money gets in the way.

Although I’m making approximately the same amount as a freelancer as I made as a full-time employee, my rent keeps going up. Higher rent means more time spent doing paid labor. More time spent in paid labor means less time for writing.

It’s no secret that being a writer isn’t exactly a lucrative career, and if I was ever in it for the money, I’d have gotten out long ago. I wish I was above needing money, but I’ve gotten used to having things like food and shelter in my life. For almost a year, I’ve been striving to find a way to make “more money in less time.” Since that hasn’t come through, I’m moving on to Plan B: cut the expenses.

My move will cut the expenses in a big way. What I’ll spend in rent for my last two months in my current location will be enough to pay my rent for half a year in my next one. I’m lucky to be a person who knows what I want: I want to write. Knowing that, I owe it to myself to make decisions accordingly. When I told my best friend I was considering this move, she said, “Is a change of scenery really such a big deal, if it lets you be more true to your calling?”

I like to write with Lake Superior out my window. But as far as scenery changes go, a garden, trees, and cornfields aren’t bad, either. When I was twelve, I had a dream of someday writing on the shores of Lake Superior. I’ve got that dream covered. Now it’s time to explore my (somewhat more ridiculous, but present nonetheless) dream of writing in the middle of nowhere. After all, one can get a lot of writing done when there’s absolutely nothing else to do.

On Writing Spaces

January 12, 2009

Last week, my friend Jenny wrote about the importance of writing spaces — how objects from her past held her back, and how a thorough clean and “upgrade” of her space brought her face to face with a slight fear of success. (My interpretation; you can draw your own conclusions by reading the post here.)

I read A Room of One’s Own when I was in college, and I don’t remember whether Virginia Woolf’s thesis of women having less success as writers because they had less private space resonated with me then, but it definitely resonates with me now. It resonates with me so much that I used it when I was applying to live in the artists’ coop where I live–insisting that I needed a room of my own (I was renting a room from a rather rambunctious family at the time) to properly do my art.

Now that I’m “stranded” at my parents’ place longer than expected due to the accident, I’m finding it nearly impossible to write. In fact, I always find it nearly impossible to write when I’m here, but usually I just let it slide because I’m not usually here this long. It’s hard for me to believe that my life as a writer actually started here. But maybe that’s because back when I lived here, I did have my own space. Now, my options are my laptop on the dining room table, or the rather slow and virus-y desktop in my parents’ bedroom. Both places are fine for the short blurbs I write for work and for these blog posts. But they’re daunting places to sink into writing something as serious as fiction.

Still, I know I have to get past this roadblock, because I’m trying to write a short story and I’m on a deadline. But here’s the guilty truth: even though the list I posted last Friday looked so shiny, writing the start to my short story was like pulling teeth; I wrote just over 500 words in an hour (not a rate I’m impressed with), and I haven’t returned to it yet, despite firm resolve every night to pick it up again “in the morning.”

So while writing spaces are important — and while, by golly, we certainly deserve them! — we can’t let them become just one more excuse not to write. Because the truth is, Jane Austen wrote novels in her family’s sitting room. I wrote my first novel in my parents’ bedroom, where I’m writing this now. I’ve moved my desk around several times in my current apartment, and I’ve written novels on it in every place. I wrote novels huddled under my room-mate’s bunk in college; I even rewrote one novel and started another while rooming with the rambunctious family. I can certainly manage a short story at the dining room table.