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Book Review: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Book Review:  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

  As I mentioned, I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately. I’ve really enjoyed coming into contact with so many new ideas.   Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking was revolutionary to me in some ways and, in others, disagreeable.  Intrigued? I really resonated with a lot of Cain’s research on how introverts function differently in the world–it made me feel less like a sore thumb.  It taught me a … Read entire article »

Filed under: Nonfiction

How to Write a Novel: Part 3, Don’t Look Back

How to Write a Novel: Part 3, Don’t Look Back

    Writers tend to be perfectionists. Is that a generalization?  Yes.  But like all generalizations, it’s true to a great extent.   When you’re writing a novel, you can become paralyzed by the sheer weight of the task.  The fear can cause you to move around in a very narrow box, one in which you write twenty pages and then go over and over the same material until it’s perfect.  One of my professors remembers being in several writing … Read entire article »

Filed under: How to Write a Novel, On Writing

Book Review: Finding Your Way in a Wild New World

Book Review:  Finding Your Way in a Wild New World

  I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately and really enjoying it.  I usually read a nonfiction book (or two) alongside a novel (or two), just for variety.   I’ve also been reading a lot of Martha Beck lately–I was a little horrified to realize I hadn’t yet reviewed one of her books. I’ve read Finding Your Own North Star, Steering by Starlight, The Four Day Win, Expecting Adam, and, my favorite, Finding Your Way in a … Read entire article »

Filed under: Nonfiction

How to Write a Novel: #2, Begin.

I could just type the title really big and call it a blog post. Begin.   Not very satisfying, though, right?  I’ve written before about just starting to write. Today I’ll go a little deeper in a two-pronged approach, discussing mindset and process. Mindset Start super small.  When I began my novel, I couldn’t even call it a “novel” in my own mind.  It was too big, too scary.  It was “a piece that I was writing, that might someday become a novel.”  My friend started writing her next book by committing to writing 500 words a day.  (Not 500 good words–just 500 words.)  Likewise, I tricked myself into beginning this blog post after a long day at work by committing to writing three sentences. Don’t expect great things.  Commit for now to quantity, not quality.  Quality … Read entire article »

Filed under: How to Write a Novel

How to Write a Novel: Part 1, Pick a Topic

How to Write a Novel: Part 1, Pick a Topic

    As I revamp Books Distilled a bit, I’ll be sharing two basic types of posts: book reviews (at least one per month), and thoughts on writing practice. Specifically, I”ll be sharing a series with you called How to Write a Novel.  I’ll be sharing all the lessons I’ve learned since I first came up with my novel idea six years ago, all the way to where I am now: halfway through my second draft of my … Read entire article »

Filed under: How to Write a Novel, On Writing

Book Review: Contents May Have Shifted

Book Review:  Contents May Have Shifted

    I absolutely loved Pam Houston’s book Contents May Have Shifted.  It’s technically billed as a novel, though its structure is so unique it’s almost in a class of its own.  Originally conceived as 144 Reasons Not to Commit Suicide, Houston’s protagonist (also named Pam) struggles to find a measure of peace as she travels, teaches, and looks for meaningful relationships.   Told in 144 short vignettes, Houston somehow manages to knit Pam’s experience together into a cohesive … Read entire article »

Filed under: Contemporary Literature

The Artist’s Way, Week 1

    I’m back!   As I mentioned in my last post, I was feeling a little burned out on writing so I took a break.  So, I celebrated finishing my Master’s degree—something I hadn’t taken time to appreciate when it happened in early January! I decided to take at least a full week off from writing, and after that I’d kind of wing it.  I also decided that I’d begin again to go through Julia Cameron’s great resource, The Artist’s Way.  I’ll be documenting my experience here. The first week is about recovery.  Often we as artists are scared stiff about creating our art, for fear that it won’t be good, that we’ll find there’s nothing inside us to make art about, or because of trauma we’ve suffered from teachers, parents, well-meaning friends, enemies, or  professors who have … Read entire article »

Filed under: On Writing

Taking a Writing Break

Taking a Writing Break

  I’m reading Joyce Meyer’s Eat the Cookie…Buy the Shoes: Giving Yourself Permission to Lighten Up, and I realized that I don’t celebrate small wins. I celebrate holidays and birthdays.  I celebrate my friends’ small successes. But my own? I jump up and down once, and then I get back to work. I’ve been feeling burned out on my writing lately.  I graduated from my MFA program in early January, and I dove right back into editing my … Read entire article »

Filed under: On Writing

How to Write Anywhere

How to Write Anywhere

I’ve written before about my own writing practice–I write longhand in a spiral-bound notebook on the Long Island Railroad, every weekday morning.  When I first began commuting I couldn’t imagine writing on the train–or, indeed, writing anywhere except on my laptop, preferably in my home office, or occasionally in a coffee shop.  I was reading Robert Olen Butler’s book on writing, From Where You Dream, when I came across his note on his own writing practice.  … Read entire article »

Filed under: On Writing

Book Review: Kindle Single I Was a Stranger to Beauty, by Caroline McGraw

Book Review:  Kindle Single I Was a Stranger to Beauty, by Caroline McGraw

  Friends, On Monday my dear friend Caroline McGraw of A Wish Come Clear published a Kindle Single, I Was a Stranger to Beauty. I encourage–suggest–politely demand–that you click over and buy this book for $1.99 immediately–not because she’s my best friend, but because her story will break your heart in the best possible way, break it open in order to let light in. If you don’t own a Kindle, you can download a Kindle Cloud reader for free.     On … Read entire article »

Filed under: Contemporary Literature