Category: Better Writers

Oh My Darling, Oh My Darling, Oh My Darling published book…

Tomorrow is the big day, the huge day, the day: Oh My Darling officially becomes a published, real, book in the world. Words like “excited” or “proud” seem so small that they almost have no meaning, but they’re all I’ve got. I’m so excited. I’m so proud. To think that Clementine might step out of my brain and into the life of someone else – maybe, dare I hope, even one or two someones who don’t know me personally – makes me feel a little dizzy and sick and feverish.

Work on the novel is…ongoing. It continues to be complete garbage, but at least I am writing it. That’s not nothing, I guess. Lately I think everything sucks – my characters, my ideas, my plot. In my darkest moments, I’d like to scrap the whole thing, close up shop on this dumb Being A Writer idea and find some other way to torture myself. Stubbornness keeps me going. I think maybe this is the melodramatic, self-indulgent first novel that I need to get out of my system and the next one or two or ten will be better. Maybe this is just a hill I need to drag myself up and over, and then I can get on with writing something that will end up being not-bad. This is where I find comfort in my “rocks fall, everyone dies” moments.

All is not darkness, however. My husband recently got a new job in a different area of Seattle, which means we’ve swapped who takes the bus to work and who drives. Finding myself with a full hour alone in the car each day, I decided to download a voice recorder app and dictate chapters during my commute. I’ve got a full week under my belt – plus Saturday morning, on my way to run an errand, look how committed I am! – and I have to say, I feel like it’s a stroke a genius. I’m a very fast typist, but speaking is even faster – in that hour, I can spew out 4,000 words. All of them pure muck and bullshit, of course, but words nonetheless. After work I transcribe what I’ve talked to myself about in the car, make little tweaks or edits or notes to myself, and add it to my word count for the week. So far the system seems to be working. Maybe I’ve discovered a routine…



Recently I’ve finished We Were Liars by E. Lockhart and Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit. I enjoyed both: I gobbled up We Were Liars in two sittings, savored Men Explain Things to Me throughout the week. An unreliable narrator is hard to pull off, and I didn’t guess Lockhart’s twist ending. Solnit’s essays were not what I had been expecting – not bad, of course, but I thought it would be more of a personal narrative, and didn’t get that. Likely that’s my own fault as a reader, but my impression on finishing the book was that I haven’t read enough Woolf.


2014: Year in Books

Happy new year! As 2015 gets underway, I can’t help looking back on 2014 – gosh, what an incredible year! What a year in books!

I started 76 books last year; more than 2013, but not as many as 2012. All told, I finished 70 books: 76 plus one that I’d started in 2013, minus six I put down and didn’t pick up again for a variety of reasons, and minus another one I finished in the early days of 2015.

Some highlights:

Favorite book by an author I love, who I planned to see when he stopped in Seattle on his book tour, but it was days after my wedding and I completely forgot until it was too late (and remained crushed and annoyed with myself): The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell

Best book that had me entertaining my loved ones with facts about poop (there are so many!): Gulp, Mary Roach

Beautiful, inexorably sad book that left me weeping on the bathroom floor (in the best way): The Kept, James Scott

Favorite book in a continuing series about a time-traveling Englishwoman and her hunky Scots husband, the first book of which is now a show on Starz (and I’ve watched every episode multiple times): Written In My Own Heart’s Blood, Diana Gabaldon

Gorgeous book, which I purchased from a bookstore in the valley where it is set, and also fell immediately in love with (the book, the bookstore and the valley), and am waiting for the author to hurry up and write another gorgeous book that I can fall in love with (please!): The Orchardist, Amanda Coplin

Plus many more – including the His Dark Materials series (Philip Pullman), the Sookie Stackhouse series (Charlaine Harris), lots of Mary Roach, Margaret Atwood, Emma Donoghue, Philipp Meyer, Rainbow Rowell…

Not all of those were written or published in 2014, but still: what an incredible year of reading! 2014 was very novel-heavy for me, so I’m hoping to get more poetry in my life in 2015. Dream big, right?

Another year older – where’s my presents?

I’m 28! Do I seem older, wiser? More mature? Should I start saying it like ma-tour instead of ma-chure? Maybe I’ll save that for 29…

Yes, the rumors of my increasing age are all true. Thanks very much to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs for throwing me a big party in Boston – sorry I wasn’t able to make it again this year, guys. Also you’re a week late, but it’s the thought that counts. In related news I’ve decided 28 will be The Year I Fight Off Scurvy, so I have committed myself to eating lots of citrus. My fingernails have gone a bit orange but I feel strong and mighty.

In case you forgot to get me something, no worries, I will absolutely accept Beverly Cleary’s childhood home as a belated b-day gift. Look how adorable:

THIS adorable!

So adorable! And who doesn’t want to live in Portland? Of course everyone wants to live in Portland. I bet if I’d been raised in Portland instead of NJ, I’d be a much cooler and more successful artist. Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad!

Off to eat oranges until the pain subsides…

Still living, still not blogging…

At least it isn’t March yet, so I can still claim to have written every month of 2013 as far as the old blog goes. February has been a relatively slow month, though it’s still February and therefore inherently fucking terrible. I got my winter doldrums out of the way earlier in the season and now I’m just feeling very prickly and short-tempered. Most people are clamoring for spring, but I’m the asshole outside shaking her fist at the sky, demanding to know where all the snow’s been hiding. It’s a pervasive myth that Pittsburgh it’s a snowy place. It’s not. It’s a perpetual disappointment in that respect. Can a girl get a blizzard here or what! One good storm! Signs point to “no,” and also to “hell no,” and also to “lololol no.”

I did have my quarterly I’m awful and I can’t write and everything I do is terrible and I am the least creative person ever and my entire identity is a fraud! I should just GIVE UP! crisis, so we’re on track in that respect. I mean, thank goodness. I need some predictability in my life.

Oh, jeez – more good news from January! Yes, January was my biggest month ever, for sure. I got engaged! Which is pretty exciting, and the fact that I put this bit of news below whining about the weather and airing my authorial insecurities is in no way indicative of how happy I am or how disgustingly in love we are. To answer the only questions anyone seems to care about: No, we haven’t made ANY plans yet. No, we don’t have a date. No, seriously, I have no idea about anything, stop asking.


February. February’s almost done, March is days away. Which means my birthday is coming up and I feel pretty good about 28. I said this last year and I was right, so I’m going to say it again: I think it’s going to be a good year.

I’ve been writing a bit, trying to find something to occupy me now that Clementine is over. I haven’t settled on anything yet. Some things are brewing, but…we’ll see. I don’t know! I feel unmoored. Maybe I’ll just keep writing volumes of Clementine and her further adventures…

I have been reading a TON, of course. My current tally is 12 books started in 2013, 13 finished (one started and abandoned). I read Natasha Tretheway’s Thrall and would not shut up about it. I finished listening to Moby Dick and was really pleasantly surprised by the novel as a whole – Melville is so funny! Who knew! I read Jim Harrison’s newest novella duo, The River Swimmer, and fell deeper in love with him. I finally got around to The Fallback Plan and enjoyed it.

Currently I’m reading Percival Everett by Virgil Russell and…enjoying it? I think? No, yes, I am. I am! It is one of my failings as a reader that I always have to KNOW. I like to be centered. I have trouble going with the flow and letting stories unfold at their own pace. I like to know, or be able to figure out without a lot of fuss, what’s going on and to which characters and why and when, etc. This is not that kind of book, so that’s been an adjustment for me. But I’m a little more than halfway through it and intend on finishing it, so, good for me.

I hit this passage today and felt better about everything:

Not to complicate matters, as if I give a fuck about that, but I’d be remiss if I did not make clear the complete absense of clarity regarding one pressing and nagging matter, that being: just who the fuck is telling this story? There are readers, dear readers, and I use the plural modestly as to really mean possibly only one reader, counted repeatedly on different days, that require a certain degree of specificity concerning the identity of the narrator. Is it an old man or the old man’s son? Not that I am by nature disposed to behaving deferentially to any reader, or anyone, but I will clear up the matter forthworth, directly, tout de suit. I am telling this story.

This is why Percival Everett is A Big Deal and no one takes me seriously. Lead on, sir!


I forgot to include one book on my 2012 reading list completely – so I’m +1 from what I previously reported (a novel, of course, though not finished in one sitting). It’s The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. Fully deserving of all the praise it’s been receiving lately, if you ask me.

(I told my mom about it, and how sad it was – it IS sad, gracious it is sad – and then on Christmas she was unwrapping a present from me, a book, and she said, “This better not be that Yellow Birds book…” Oh, Mom! For the record it was not The Yellow Birds, it was serious literature. Jane Eyrotica.)

2012 – Year in Books

In late 2011, I started keeping a spreadsheet of all the books I read – partly because sometimes I forget what I’ve read and partly because I knew I read a lot but wasn’t sure what “a lot” meant. So now it’s 2013 and I’ve been keeping this list for over a year and I have a full year of data to look at!

Here’s how it breaks down…


By numbers:

In 2012, I started 78 books. I finished 71 books, which leaves seven unfinished at year’s end. Of those, three I stopped reading because of disinterest and don’t plan to finish. The rest I intend to finish in 2013 (I have already finished two of them! yeah progress!)


By genre:

Audiobooks: 1.5 ish (still working on Moby Dick!)

Graphic memoir: 1

Contemporary fiction: 14

Essays: 1

Fairy tales: 2 (didn’t finish one)

Memoir: 1

Mystery: 5 (all of them from Craig Johnson’s Longmire series)

Nonfiction: 8

Novellas: 4

Poetry collections: 3

Romance novels: 7 + I reread 6 Gabaldons [book 7 in progress]

Sci-fi/horror/fantasy: 13 (almost entirely thanks to my sci-fi book club)

Story collections/anthologies: 7

Translation: 1

YA: 3

I didn’t keep track of lit journals or chapbooks, which I should have (note to self…).


Books I Read in One Day/Sitting:

Falling Backward into The World by Stephen Dunn (poetry) (I read this one almost daily, to be honest)

Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh (fantasy ish?)

Certified Cowboy by Rita Herron (romance)

Claimed by a Cowboy by Tanya Michaels (romance)

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan (contemporary fiction)

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell (non-fiction)

Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen (contemporary fiction)

Death Without Company by Craig Johnson (mystery)

The Dark House by Craig Johnson (mystery)

A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver (poetry)

Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners (contemporary fiction/romance)

Astray by Emma Donoghue (story collection)


Top 10, in no particular order:

Icefields by Thomas Wharton (fiction)

Falling Backward Into the World by Stephen Dunn (poetry)

Anatomies by Andee Hochman (story collection)

The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates (fiction)

Shut Up/Look Pretty – 5 chapbooks in 1 from Tiny Hardcore Press (Things About Me and You by Lauren Becker; This Morning Will Be Different by Erin Fitzgerald; Local God by Kristy Logan; What Passes for Normal by Michelle Reale; A Great Dark Sleep by Amber Sparks)

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (story collection/fairy tales)

Don’t Bet on the Prince by Jack Zipes (story collection/fairy tales)

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan (fiction)

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (fiction)

Astray by Emma Donoghue (story collection)


A Song of Ice and Fire:

Because I am a ridiculous person, I decided to read the entire series in a month. It wasn’t so much a conscious decision as an obsession that began almost immediately with book 1 and led to lots of days where I read through my entire lunch hour, read when I went to the bathroom and shut myself in my bedroom with the book immediately on returning home from work. I ignored my entire life, barely spoke to my boyfriend and dreamed about war. It was awesome.

A Game of Thrones: 5 days

A Clash of Kings: 4 days

A Storm of Swords: 5 days

A Feast for Crows: 5 days

A Dance with Dragons: 7 days

Although now of course I have to wait years and years for the next book, so…joke’s on me, I guess.

So far in 2013, I’ve finished two books, started one, and two have carried over from 2012 in various stages of progress. It’s been a solid first week! 51 to go…

In which I complain and talk nonsense, as usual.


Clementine, Clementine, Clementine! She is still not finished. I think part of me doesn’t want to finish – because then I’d have to stop spending time with her. Also part of me (a big, big part) is lazy. I have no discipline in my life. I’m working on that. I think I need to start punishing and rewarding myself, sticks and carrots as they say. But I’m even lazy about feeling bad about how lazy I am.

So AWP happened! As in every year past, I did not attend. Maybe next year? Boston? My book was there and I hear it sold pretty well, so that’s exciting. A little store in Houston, Texas, is going to have some copies for sale. I ran out of copies, but once I get some they’ll be for sale in Pittsburgh, too. Just like a real book! How about that.

I turned another year older recently. I like being 27 so far. I have a really good feeling about this year. It’s going to be great. I’m going to learn how to be discipline and I’m going to attend AWP (even though I have a sneaking suspicion that I will hate it, introvert and all) and I’m going to get a better job and I’m going to get more tattoos and I’m going to move someplace awesome and I’m going to find a great publisher for Clementine and it’s all just going to be great. Probably some of that will happen and some of it will not and other things I do not expect will happen or seem to happen and then crash and burn. Exciting to find out which!

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit claustrophobic. I spend too much of my time in a cubicle, being bored and questioning why I am where I am and what can be done about it. I need to get away for a while, just be by myself somewhere. What I’d like to do is skip out to lake for a month of sun and water and woods and solitude, but this cube-lifestyle doesn’t really allow for that. I’ll have to settle for a long weekend, somewhere. How did I get here? How can I leave?

 I’ve been reading some excellent things lately. I picked up Andee Hochman’s collection Anatomies at the Winter Getaway in January, but didn’t get around to reading it until a few weeks ago. It’s a lovely collection. Heart-wrenching and beautiful and just…meaty. I loved it. Also Jim Shepard’s One Story offering – “The World to Come.” Did you read it? You need to. And then read it again, trust me. I love Jim Shepard and I love historical short stories. It’s a quiet story but also a screamer. I don’t know. I’m too starstruck to talk coherently about it.

Aside from those, I’ve had my nose buried in the Song of Ice and Fire series. You know, Game of Thrones and the rest. I’m close to finishing the most recent book, A Dance With Dragons. Just in time for season 2 of the series! Can’t wait! These books are horrifying and scary and funny and sexy and exciting, and also infuriating sometimes and boring sometimes, but more often than not they feel worth the thousands and thousands of pages it has taken me to get to this point. Which is STILL not the end-end. I’ll have to wait another decade for that. (In other hefty series news, the next Gabaldon comes out this fall, so says my mom! OH YES. I AM SO READY.)

This is a thing I read today, Rebecca Sherm interviewing Wells Tower:

That’s such a good way to think of it — you start with some tiny moment, and then make it matter.

Yeah, and I think that is the important thing in revision — looking at the draft and figuring out what is important. If it is the characters, then have you chosen the right program of incident to subject these characters to? Or if you feel like you have a really great plot, have you chosen the right people, the right point of view? What’s really the emotional goal in the story?

The rest is here. Wells Tower is one of those writers I’ve been aware of for a long time, but have never gotten around to reading. Looks like I’ll have to make some time for him.

My lone 2011 submission is still languishing in limbo. It’s been 3 months, probably safe to assume that’s a rejection. I should probably get my shit together if I plan to take this year by storm. Although, really, all I have to do is send two stories out and I’ve blown last year out of the water. But no! No! This year I make it happen. This year I buckle down and focus. This year…!